Conversations with My Son: on Death and Becoming an Angel

“Mommy, why do people die?” he asks me as he snuggles next to me just before falling asleep.

“Well,” I tell him, “people get sick and they get hurt, and sometimes that causes them to die.”

His body starts to hitch with tears, so I pull him closer.

“My grandpa died!” he sobs, and I try to shoosh him as I wipe tears from his face.

“Yes, Grandpa got sick and died.”

“I don’t want to die, Mommy! I don’t want to die and be an angel!” he cries uncontrollably and buries his face into my shirt. “Mommy, will you die, too?” he asks. My heart hurts as I try to find the right words, so that I don’t lie to him, but also to comfort him.

“Mommy will be here for a long, long time,” I tell him. “I’ll be here when you grow up and become a daddy and when you have grand babies too.”

He thinks about this for a moment, but its not enough to stop the tears, nor the hitch in his breathing as he tries to comprehend a life as an adult.

He’s my gentle child, the extra-senstitive one, who hurts to the very core at life’s injustices and notices when people are cruel, and understands that bad things happen, and that people die. It’s got to be tough for a just-turned-four year old to understand so much about life already, and to already be contemplating life without his mother by his side.

“Mommy, I want to keep you forever,” he tells me as he snuggles in closer, wraps his arms around me, and falls asleep.