Notes on mortality


I had some conversations about death with my middle son today. Our neighbour’s grandmother had died, and the funeral is today. They love this neighbour, a young man who babysits often and plays the best, weird indecipherable superhero games with them. So the boys were concerned about him, and very interested as to where his beloved granny had gone.

I probably speak about death with my children a little too much, because there was a two-week period a couple of years ago when it seemed I was about to die. I suppose I want them to know that if I did, it wasn’t my choice to leave, and that part of me can’t die because it’s part of them. Anyway, I try to knock death talk on the head, in general.

But my middle son was on a roll today and really wanted some discussion around the idea. ‘When you be dead, are you dead forever?’ ‘When I be dead, will you be dead? ‘Can we all be dead holding hands together?’ ‘Can we be dead but then be statues in the museum?’

He sat in his car seat in the back while I answered (Yes. All things going as they should, yes. No, but that’s a touching yet incredibly distressing idea. No.) We drove on for a bit in silence, and he stared out the window, deep in the kind of thoughts that only a three-year-old can have. Then he said quietly: ‘But the heart never dies Mama. It can’t.’

On cue, we stopped at a red light and I turned to him. ‘Where did you…? Where did you get that from?’ I said, looking at him. He is as pretty as a bluebird, this child. ‘My brain told me,’ he said matter-of-factly, gazing out of the window again. These children. You think they are speaking mostly gobbledygook as they try to carve sense out of the world with their limited, lisping vocabulary – then they break out these showstopping lines that sound like something an ancient sage has come up with after a hundred years meditating in a cave.

The light turned green and we drove on. ‘I hope I die with blood bleeding all over me,’ he added, in a tone that can only be described as glee. He is a little boy, after all.

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