Just of late, my elder daughter has been a bit… concerned about death. She knows that people die, but she doesn’t really understand what that means. So she’s trying to wrap her four-year-old brain around it. She plays games about dying. She sings songs about dying. She discusses dying. And she asks a lot of questions…
“Daddy, where is your granddad?”
M paused for a moment, and then replied honestly. “He’s dead. I had two granddads and two grandmothers when I was little, but they died. I had a daddy too, but he is dead now too.”
We have discussed how to handle these questions about death. We could skirt the issue, or offer euphemisms, or sweet stories to soften the reality. Maybe we should, really — she’s only four, after all. But somehow, we’re both a bit rubbish at that sort of thing and so we tend to just answer her questions plainly, without elaborating much. I keep hoping to come up with a better way of handling it but, so far… nothing. I really do feel like I’ve failed her in that way.
“Daddy… “ Oh no, more questions!
“Daddy, when you die…” she spoke quietly, evenly, “I want to hold your hand.”
And with that, she had grasped all that we have failed to explain to her. Not a question at all, but the answer — the reason that parents have children. And the calmest, most honest concept of death that I could have hoped her to have.
M stood, with tears in his eyes.