“Are you and Daddy going to die Mommy?”
“Yes, Michael. One day we will.”
“Am I going to die?”
“Yes, honey. We all will one day. No one lives forever.”
“Do we go to heaven when we die?
“Yes, we do.”
“And where do we go after heaven?”
Pause on my end. How do I answer this as accurately as I can?
“No where buddy. That’s it. We rest there, and we are at peace with God. At least that’s what we think. No one has ever died and come back to tell us.”
I neglect to tell him that I do believe many of the stories of people who’ve died on the operating table for a few minutes and been brought back to life by doctors. I also don’t tell him my own near death experience twenty years ago, and what I saw which changed my perception of death forever. This is a loaded question which is hard even for most neuro typical adults a to handle. And we were having this discussion while I was pushing him on a swing in the park.
“But my teacher died when I told her I was angry at her. I put her in red. Then she came back to life and is helping people.” He smiled so sure of himself.
I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or get angry. Maybe bringing Michael up Catholic was only confusing him more. He was mixing up his own insecurities and anger at his teacher when she disciplined him, and the story of Jesus dying on the cross. Sigh. I did not think this visit to the park would get so complicated. I took a deep breath and answered Michael.
“Honey, you were angry at your teacher, but she didn’t die. Death is permanent. When someone dies, they can’t come back. The only person who ever did it was Jesus. That’s what Christians believe.
“Oh ok. Can I go on the seesaw now? I want to go by myself Mommy. You can watch me on the bench.”
And just like that the moment was gone. Wow. This was not the first time Michael had asked such existential questions at a time when I did not see it coming. But I was sure glad I had some of my stuff together to answer him. As he gets older, I know the questions will get more complex. Then it will be a challenge to give him accurate answers, and I will have to tell him that they are not what others necessarily believe. This is where it gets tricky. I had to hope that for now the answer I gave him was sufficient. I think it was.
Suffice it to say, Michael got me thinking about my own belief about life, death and what happens to us in between when we are living. I believe that if we are good, good things come to us. Same goes for bad. I also believe in karma, and in living more in the moment. After all, we don’t know when our last breath on this earth will be.
How do you address surprise questions like these with your Exceptional Children, Moms? Have any questions on life and death come up? If not, it’s good. It gives you time to get your answers ready now for when that question does come, and it will for most of our kids. It’s also a good chance to get yourself to think about these questions, and figure things out in your own mind. This is something important for all of us to do if we want to grow as authentic human beings, and fully embrace the world around us. Only by doing this, can we be the teachers to guide our children to fully embrace their world. Until next time.