If you follow E or I on Twitter or Facebook you know that Wesley is totally obsessed with death and dying right now. He loves to talk about it. He likes to run down the list of people close to us who have died, how they died, and where they’re buried. He likes to discuss my Dad’s cremation. He likes to talk about WHEN we’re all going to die and how we’re being healthy so hopefully that stretches out the time we have.
He does all of this in a very cute and hilarious fashion, of course.
This week he was talking to E and said, “First Daddy will die, then Mommy, then you and Nikki.” Then he dramatically placed his head on his hands, elbows on the table and continued, “Then I’ll be ALL alone.” With a maniacal grin on his face, of course.
I actually don’t mind any of this because I have no belief of an after-life so I can be very matter-of-fact about it all. It’s weird. I held my faith so dear for so long, I wouldn’t have believed thinking and talking about death would be this easy without it. I owe part of that to my Dad because he did not fear death and also really doubted any sort of after-life.
I explain to him that when we die, that’s it, but that’s why we have to live wonderfully good lives so that people will still think about us and remember us after we die. Then we will live on that way. I tell him that my Dad lives on in my memories and in the stories I tell him and his siblings. And you know? He’s very okay with that.
I think the reason it’s easier for me to talk/think about death without faith is because I am a VERY HIGH ANXIETY PERSON. And I can not pragmatically imagine an after-life where I am not stressed out about something. If I am privy to anything going on in the lives of those I love? Then I’ll be worried about them. And I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
I know a faithful person would say that they believe their heart will be cleared of all of that – but the pragmatist in me just can’t fathom that so it was never something that soothed me. How could I be conscious on any level and NOT worry about the people I love? So to me? A life after death that involves nothing? BRINGS ME MUCH PEACE.
How dumb is that? I basically gave up decades of solid faith so that I wouldn’t need Xanax in heaven.
(Not that I ever thought I deserved Heaven, mind you.)
I did always worry that talking to the kids like that would be tough. But it hasn’t been. It takes a lot of reassuring because they kinda think it sucks that you just…DIE. But they see how much I still carry my Dad with me and they truly see that as something to strive for. That being in the memories of those you leave behind is a powerful thing. No one could hear the way I talk about my Dad and see that as anything but a lovely after-life.
So Wes keeps asking and I keep answering the best I can. I tell him in a perfect world we’ll all live until we’re 90 and die peacefully in our sleep. But that sometimes healthy people like my Dad get sick and die and that makes people who love them VERY sad. I honestly tell him about times I still cry over Dad. But that we have to keep going on living good lives for the people still here. And he seems to accept that.
And then he goes and adds this to the conversation when his sister and I are talking about things we pretend. (I pretend Harry Potter is real. She pretends her toys are real.)
“I pretend that Owls don’t die.”
Because – let’s face it. If we’re pretending someone gets immortality…it should be the Hedwig.