My 5-year-old boy has been asking me some tough questions lately. I'm not sure what has brought on these thoughts which seem much too deep for a 5-year-old mind, but almost daily he brings them to me.
"How come some people get in car crashes but some people don't?"
"Do birds go to heaven, too?"
"Why don't big people like wishing-flowers (dandelions) or dirt?"
The list goes on. But yesterday morning's question was the most unexpected. It was still dark outside and most of the house was asleep when Hubba poked his head around my bedroom door and timidly called out, "Mom?"
Hubba usually sleeps until well past sunrise so I welcomed this early morning visit with my boy. "Climb in," I invited him, pulling back the covers.
He snuggled in next to me and immediately asked, "Mom, are you going to die?"
I was surprised, but answered, "Someday, buddy. But I'll have many, many more birthdays before that happens."
"I don't want you to have any more birfdays," he responded.
"Well, I really like cake and ice cream and presents, though. How will I get those if I don't have birthdays?"
"You can have them on my birfday, okay? Promise you won't have any more birfdays? I don't want you to ever die."
What do you say to words like these? My heart melted. What a beautiful thing to be so loved. I decided to try explaining things from another perspective.
"Well, I plan to live a very, very long time. I hope I'll live until I am a very old grandma with a whole lifetime of happy memories."
"I don't want you to be a gramma. I will never be a dad and I will never have a kid and then you will never die, okay?"
We continued this conversation in the quiet of the morning, back and forth, point and counter-point, until the rest of the house began to stir and slowly come to life. As we got out of bed to start the morning I made one last attempt at helping him to understand, in a gentle, five-year-old kind of way, that death was inevitable. That we all continue in the circle of life whether we choose to or not.
"Tell you what, Hubba," I started. "I'll stop having birthdays if you just stay little. That means you'll never get to go to school or be a firefighter or train engineer. You just have to stay here at home with me and Dad for the rest of your life and never grow bigger. You'll never get to drive a car or learn to build things. You won't ever be a boy scout or ride a big bike or shoot guns with Dad. Can you do that?"
Hubba sighed. "Okay, Mom. If you stop having birfdays, I will just stop growing." And then he looked at me with his sheepish little smile, gave me a squeeze and said, "Fanks, Mom. I love you!" as he happily made his way downstairs to get dressed.
I'm thinking we haven't quite come to a conclusion with that whole conversation just yet. But for now, I'm content to just let it be.
P.S. In the spirit of my Grandpa Royce and his rich Irish heritage I would like to wish the luck o' the Irish upon every one of you today. Are you wearing your green? Happy Saint Patrick's Day!