“What happens to you when you die?" My son asked me this this morning.
We have travelled these waters before. (Also at breakfast! What is it with death and breakfast?) That time my mother had just come to visit and he looked at me and said out of the blue, “When is grandma going to die?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I hope not for a long time.”
He thought about that for a second and then said, “When are you going to die?”
Gulp. He was four years old.
“I don’t know, Honey. I hope not for a long, long, long time.”
He looked at me and thought some more. He was dreaming with his eyes open, looking into the middle distance, where the answers must live, because when he came back, when he focused on me again, he said “My great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandmother is mother earth. And she will never die.”
This morning when he asked, I said “What do you mean? Do you mean to your body?”
“Yeah,” he said. Then “No, I mean to your brain.”
“Your soul? The part of you that makes you you?” I said. He nodded. “Well, nobody really knows. But I can tell you what I believe.” He nodded again. “I believe that your soul is like a drop of water and there is a great river of life and when you die, your soul will go back to the river. And maybe then it will come back as a tree. Or a bear. Or a rock.”
(I wouldn’t mind being a rock for a while, just on some days. Especially the Twitter-heavy ones. Can you imagine? Maybe on some beautiful mountainside, all licheny and looking over long purple swells of mountains. In this fantasy, the lichen is orange, which contrasts nicely with the purple, and there is a fresh pine smell. Probably rocks don’t care about any of these things. Probably rocks just like to be touched by the wind, the rain. But while I’m in this Libra-moon-obsessed-with-colors-and-beauty incarnation, I might as well go with it, you know? Anyway…)
This morning, after I dropped that bit of custom wisdom on him, he looked far away again. But only for a moment. And then he started talking about Pokémon.
So goeth parenthood.
I don’t know. I don’t really want to be a rock. And maybe it isn’t breakfast that calleth forth the grim echoes of death. (What ho, Shakespearification? I don't know. I'm in a mood.) Maybe it's the season. The veil is getting thinner. I talked to my ancestors at the creek yesterday and again today. The cherry trees are changing. They are gold, apricot, scarlet. One robin swoops in front of me and then into the trees. Then another. A third. The winter flocking is beginning. By December they will be travelling in flocks of 40, 50, more. This, I think, is how they deal with winter, the season of death and silence. This is how they face the shortening of the days.