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Oh, Heavens

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We've been through this before.

om with her two kids

Geralyn Broder Murray: "What happens when you're dead?" Reese lobs casually from the backseat, as though it were more like "What happens when you go to the Laundromat?"

Oy vey. At nine o'clock at night on a Friday? After a very fun but exhausting pizza party? With my work clothes still on and so much still between me and my sheets?

"What do you mean?" I say lightly, angling for time to compose an answer, while Finn, my 2-year-old, not one to be left out of things, offers enthusiastically, "I'm dead! I'm dead sometimes."

"You're not dead, Finnie," I say, more quickly than necessary, and while he protests ("Sometimes, I am, sometimes!"), I say to Reese diplomatically: "People think different things about where you go when you die."

They both wait for me to continue, not interrupting for perhaps the first time since their births. I dive in, knowing the water will be cold and unfamiliar.

"Some people think that when your body stops working, the thing that makes you you goes somewhere. Like heaven," I summarize, leaving so much out.

"What's heaven?"

"Somewhere beautiful and soft, where you can have whatever you want, whenever you want it," I say, conjuring up what I hope are angels and harps and fluffy clouds, the only thing I'm willing to offer my 5-year-old at this point.

"And what do the other people think?"

I give her the short answer: "That you just go to sleep forever."

Silence for a minute -- I can hear the gears in her brain whirring while Finn keeps saying things like: "I sleep, I sleep sometimes."

"I'm going to do the sleep thing," she says to me, "'cause I like to sleep."

As always, she throws me for a loop, abandoning the Disneyland-ish option for what can only be described as a long bedtime. And once again I think about how we need to figure out the whole religion thing before we are asked questions that demand more. Then I realize we are already there and that we are fumbling our way through -- awkwardly maybe -- but just fine, too.

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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
Monica October 25, 2009, 12:50 PM

Just remember the simplest explanation is always the easiest to understand for children. As you can see she didn’t opt for the fairy tail version of going to heaven and getting everything you want because well, that is simply not true. (Not saying that there aren’t those that go to heaven but, those that do aren’t there for selfish reasons). Anyhow, it just seems as if she wanted a simply explanation. And so when you said that is like going to sleep forever that was what she was looking for. Or you could have said that you simply cease to exists. Simple and truthful.

Sam Adams October 26, 2009, 2:58 PM

I beg to differ that “ceasing to exist” is the “true” answer.

deaddrift October 29, 2009, 7:26 PM

Sounds to me like you handled it perfectly.

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