alive together

josephine’s been grappling with the concept of mortality lately.  one morning during breakfast a few weeks ago, out of the blue, she asked, “mama, are you going to die?” i hid my surprise well, i think, and told her i would but that it would probably be years from now. she wailed, “but who will take care of me??” i reassured her that there will always be someone to take care of her.  and that, most likely, i’ll be around until she’s a grown-up and has a family of her own. a pause, distraction from the conversation by the idea of herself as a grown woman, then, “mama? am I going to die?” i told her, calmly, that she would. we talked about living things, how they all begin as nothing, grow, live their lives, and then die. we talked of fish and trees and flowers and pets, of the avocado pit we’re coaxing to sprout. and we talked about people. we talked about how it feels so sad to miss someone and that feeling sad is ok. we talked about charlotte in charlotte’s web.  we read that book together last month and, although i approached the sad ending with trepidation, josephine didn’t flinch as i read of [spoiler alert] charlotte’s death with a tear in my eye.  perhaps she was letting that chapter marinate for a few weeks before connecting charlotte’s end with the eventual end of those she loves.  she’s brought it up a few times since that talk over breakfast. we were brushing our teeth a few days ago and she said, “can you talk to me about dying again?” i can see her turning it all over in her brain, attempting to make sense of something fairly impossible to comprehend.

yesterday’s school nightmare has brought all of her swirling, unformed fears into sudden, harsh focus. she has no idea anything horrendous happened, of course. we’ve declared a moratorium on having the radio or tv on during news time and i did my weeping yesterday silently, turned away from her while she was playing, and after i was in bed. i don’t want to keep reading about it, but it’s so hard to look away. a friend and i talked briefly about it yesterday, trying to speak abstractly as we both had young children nearby. she said she didn’t want to know more about it, didn’t want to have the ability to create a mental image. but not much more than a headline or two is needed for our minds to start buzzing with awful, unwanted thoughts.  the what ifs and the how coulds.  i know, logically, that the chances of something similar happening to josephine or to any of our young friends are off-the-charts low, but it doesn’t matter.  it’s another thing to add to my list of nonsensical things to be terrified about. and it will make it harder, next time josephine asks, to calmly talk about how far into the future our lives will stretch.  i will tell her, again and again, that every day we have alive together is such a gift.

if there was one spark of a silver lining to yesterday’s amazingly grey day, it was that, when it took josephine a long time to fall asleep last night and she kept calling out for us to cover her up again and again, i didn’t get frustrated. instead i relished the chance to rub her small back again and kiss her soft hair again. and my heart broke a little more each time for the families who didn’t get that chance last night.

i’m sending out love and light today. it’s not much but it’s a little bit of something.


4 Responses to “alive together”

  • Meg Says:

    Oh, Oma. This brought tears to my eyes. I am so thankful for you, Joey, Ned and for your beautiful and melancholy words. We have also put a moratorium on the news at our house, and all other media for that matter. I am selfishly so so thankful, in my role, to be far far away from CT and elementary school work… but my name was attached to an email to our families on Friday, and I am trying to mentally prepare for the kiddos that might need me in the days before winter break. Hug your sweet girl for us, and we’ll hug ours. XOXO.

  • Erika Says:

    i love you. thanks for this.

  • grandma susan Says:

    you are magical in your words, oma. i cried at this one. love you lots. xoxm.

  • Carrie Says:

    sniffles.