Can We Talk About It?

Sophie’s only three, but she’s very curious.

Tonight’s pre-bedtime subject of conversation was death. We hadn’t broached that subject in a long time. It had been at least several months since she last asked about her Nanny and why she died.
Sophie wanted to know if I had a father. When I told her everyone has a father, she wanted to know his name. “David,” I replied. “I can say that name,” she excitedly responded. “DAVID!” she exclaimed. When she asked where he was, and if he had died, I told her he had. “Why did he die?” I started to respond that he had been sick. But then I thought better of it, because I figured she doesn’t yet understand that there are degrees of sick. And I certainly don’t want her to think that not every kind of sick causes death. So we told her that he died because he was old (so not true – he was only 56 – only 16 years older than I am now).
That response led to a classic Sophie facial expression – a combination of fear and unease, with her big brown eyes and a pout. Embracing me in a bear hug, she worriedly said, “I don’t want you to get old. If you get old and get sick and die, me and Chloe will be alone.” I told her not to worry, that Mommy and Papa were still young and that it would be a long time before we got old. And that before that happens, she may even have a children of her own.
That comment, of course, opened up another can of worms. “When are children going to be in my tummy?” “Hopefully not for another 20 years, at least,” said her Papa. Boy, has he got that all wrong, I’m thinking to myself. 20 years??? Let’s try 30 next time.

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