The memory is vivid.
I am standing in my jammies at the end of our hallway. I am leaning against the corner of the wall peering into the living room and I am hidden from my parents' view. They are sitting on our yellowish-flowery 1960's sofa cuddled close looking happy. The glow of the television flickers on their faces.
I stare at them. Loving them. Needing them. And my five-year-old brain is riddled with fear.
"I don't ever ever want my parents to die," I think.
It's the scariest thought I have ever had in my entire five-year-old life. And my eyes well with tears but I do not run out to them to hug them close and tell them how I feel. I do not seek comfort from their loving arms. I return to my room and when I'm under the covers with a soft pillow under my head, I let those scary thoughts slip away with sleep.
The memory is vivid.
I am a mother of a 5-year-old girl, a 3-year-old girl and a two month old baby boy. It's a sunny weekend summer afternoon and I am sitting on the back deck letting the sun warm my soul while my infant boy sleeps in his baby chair at my feet.
The girls emerge from the side of the house after a mini-adventure seeing what mysteries a side of the house holds. They have seen a bird. And the bird was not moving.
My 5-year-old, my Claire, asks me, "Why wasn't the bird moving mama?"
"The bird was dead, honey."
"Yes, honey, the bird was dead. It is with God now."
"Will the bird ever open his eyes again?"
"No, honey. The bird won't open his eyes here on earth. But he may be opening his eyes in heaven."
She pauses as her 5-year-old brain considers this information. And then -
"Are you going to die mama?"
My heart skips a beat as I did not consider this next line of questioning. And my mind must have flashed back to my own fearful 5-year-old soul and now I am a mama and I am not prepared for this and my eyes well with tears and my brain races to try and explain this inexplicable destiny we all share and I answer -
"No honey. Mama's not gonna die."
The memory is vivid.
I am a mother of a 7-year-old girl, a 5-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy. We are in the midst of the chaos that is bath and bedtime. Clothes are being ripped off, our master bathtub is filling, toys are being thrown in over the side, the day's energy is still jumping off their young skin and as their mama, I hope the warm water will settle them for sleep.
My 7-year-old, Claire jumps in with a entourage of Little Pony characters to aid in her bath time storyline, and my Tommy tells me he's ready to "Get in!" I lift him in the tub and he joins Claire in play.
I turn to help my 5-year-old, Phoebe, get in the tub and she stands there with tears brimming.
"Mama, I don't want you to die."
I drop to my knees in front of her sweet face and "Oh honey, why are thinking about this?"
"I just know that you are going to die and I don't want you to die."
I've grown in my motherhood since the dead bird incident. I've lost two important people in my life since then and my girls have watched me grieve. They were by my side through the funerals of both my grandma and my aunt in the last two years. I've been given a reason to talk about death in a very real way to them.
So I say to Phoebe, "I know you don't want me to die, honey. I don't want to die either. And don't you worry, it's gonna be a real long time before I die."
"I wish I were 42 like you mama," she says. "Because if I were 42 like you, we would die at the same time. And I want to die with you mama."
And I am kneeling and staring into her tear-filled eyes and my eyes well with tears and I say, "You and me are the same baby. We have the same heart, Phoebes. I know exactly how you feel. I really, really do."
"Yep, I do. And I know it's scary to think about me dying and I know it's hard to understand. It's hard for me to understand to. I don't know anything for sure about dying but I do know that God will take care of us when we die and that we will be in a very happy place."
"And if you die before me, mama and then I die, will I get to see you again in heaven?"
"Yes, Phoebes, you will. All of us. We will all be together forever after we die."
And with that explanation, she wiped her tears, and I hugged her sweet lil' soul wrapped up in a 5-year-old body.
Then, she jumped in the tub, grabbed a pony, and started playing.
I walked around the corner of the bathroom and let the tears fall. This death conversation is tough. As a mother, I want to take away the tears and the fear and the unknown and I can't.
It's the one mystery that will never be solved in life.
But I've learned I can give them one thing to ease the fear.
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Thanks for reading and listening and sharing. Truly.
Have a great weekend.