Monday, April 3, 2017

On Death and Dying

Miranda turned 4 on Friday and virtually overnight, she has changed. While always interested in the world around her, in the past week, she has become more perceptive and more inquisitive. She no longer accepts my reply of "just because" or "because I said so". Suddenly she wants more.

She has always confused butterflies with her sister...she thinks they are one and the same. I have tried to explain that Allie was a person, a baby, and that we use butterflies as a way to remember her and honor her. She always nodded but I knew she did not get it. I never pushed the issue because I also knew she was too young.

Last night, right before bedtime, she asked about Allie the butterfly and wanted to know why she was in heaven. I explained that she was there because she died. I am not sure I ever used the word death before, but I sensed it was time.

Her eyes opened really wide and she said she didn't want her to die. Then she was worried that she might die.

With a tear rolling down my cheek,  I tried to explain that all living things die eventually. That the birds and the trees all around us are alive now but that one day they will die, too. I reminded her that our cat Zoe was once alive and now she only lives on in our hearts. I reminded her that my dad, Pop Pop Jim had also died and so did her Great Aunt E who loved her very much.

She understood it more than I thought she could. Within a few minutes, we were back to brushing teeth like nothing had happened at all. And maybe that is how it is supposed to be. Maybe I am not supposed to make a big deal out of it. Death is just another part of life, after all.

I worry so that my daughter is going to have her share of difficult conversations. But maybe what is difficult for me is not so tough for a 4-year-old. Maybe if we start the conversations now, they will be less severe than if it waited until she was older.

"I will explain it to you when you are older" was a phrase I heard so often growing up. Maybe keeping the truth from me did not do me any favors. Or maybe it did and that is why I am who I am today. I am not sure there is a way to know.

So I will continue to be as honest as I can with Miranda until she asks too much of me or asks me something I simply do not think her little brain can handle. Until then, I guess I will just do my best. I think that is fair!


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