My usual chatty 6 year old is thoughtful one day on our way back home after school. I decide to enjoy the silence whilst pushing our toddler, amused seeing the autumn leaves being blown away by the wind, literally tickled by seeing them rolling on the floor right in front of him!
At the swings, our usual pit stop on way home, the big boy opens up as I knew he would – “so Mama did you know there are children in this world without a Mama and a Papa?” Then I remembered the UN charity walk he has signed up along with his classmates at school. His teacher had just given him his first dose of reality on some of the poorer children in the world, particularly orphans who are in need of scholarships.
“What happens to me when Mama and Papa go out of this world?” Trying to make things light for him… “then you have your brother with you, you just have to remember to share!!” “OK I think I’d just enjoy being a child” he goes in a very matter-of-fact tone!
This year has seen our boy grappling with the topic of death, trying to understand the different cycles of life along with the dangers out in the world such as crime, war and wild animals. Not the nicest of topics and those which we, as parents, have tried to delay his grasp of!! Many are the nights where this pondering innocent mind is shaken by nightmares. Along with him, we, ourselves, are reminded of the first instances of getting to grips with the darker side of life – it cannot surely be easy!
But as inevitable as it is, understand he must! And however reluctant, we need to open that sunny blanket with an eternal rainbow, under which all such things have been hidden!! So comes the tough job of stripping things down to shed some light… or darkness in this case!
First thing first my son – people do not all live till 100 years! At any moment, at any place one’s life can be taken. Mostly, there can be no farewells. And past and the future does not get to meet. There is nothing more we would love than to see you both grown up with your children or grandchildren but nothing is guaranteed. Mama and Papa cannot always be with you. No one really knows with perfect certainty what happens when you go ‘out of this world’. Some believe we go to the Gods, or to heaven. Some, that we come back in other life forms, be it human or as creatures. Some that we become grass on the very ground we walk on. And people decide what they believe is right.
All this I am writing to gather courage to say to him one day, soon; some things, not so soon… and in little doses! Just by writing I feel I might be better placed to answer his questions. I am hoping he will himself come up with his own theory, as he most often does with other things, believing in full conviction, even if not totally correct! And with what he believes will all his tender heart, mind and soul what I hope is this…
That he realises that for each moment, each day, each week, each year we get blessed with good health, a roof over our heads, food, family, friends, love and laughter he should be grateful. He needs to make the most of things, relishing life, as it is!
That when we are here, if we can leave life better than when we came, our job is done; either by a new tree planted, a thoughtful child raised, a species saved or any kind of act that ripples goodness to the rest of us.
The luscious green hues that bloom in hopeful spring, maturing to those radiant colours of red, purple, orange and yellow coming to its grand finale before bowing to the ground, in shades of brilliant browns. Thereafter as to what happens I like to think, is what makes us all connected. I like to think each of us carry our ancestors within us and so will our future children, carry us. We may not physically see each other but we do ‘see’ and ‘feel’ each other with an eternal connection.
No sooner than when the leaf falls off the tree and rests on the ground basking in the crispy sun and mellow winter, on the other side of the world, a good life is re-born in spring with all its tenderness where it all starts again. And the goodness you do, is never really lost!
Death is so natural, yet not naturally an easy topic to speak or think of, for any of us, let alone a 6 year old! But I think it’s good to be reminded of our departures in a matter-of-fact way. Then we might cherish life more and take on each day with zest and passion as it deserves. Then we might do whatever we have to, to leave a good legacy behind!