Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Word of the Day is Dead

C discovered the pictures of M's real mom today. She was killed in a car accident when M was about nine, and he has no memories of her or his life before that day except those told to him or the snippets he remembers from the few pictures there are of her. As C is familiar with all of the other people adorning our walls and end tables, he appropriately asked, "Who is this?"

"That's Daddy's mommy" (and under my breath "Oh please don't go there").

"Grandma C is Daddy's mommy."

"Well, she is, but she's not his real Mommy. Remember when we talked about how there are all different sorts of families, and why Mommy has two Mommies and two Daddies?"


"Well, Daddy has two Mommies too."

"But where is she? I know your mommies and your daddies but I've never met her."

Gulp. "Ummm, well, you won't. We only have pictures of her from a long time ago."


"She died. Do you know what that means?"

"It means you have to throw something out."


"You know, like this morning when your breadmaker didn't work, you said it was dead and you had to throw it out. Daddy didn't throw his mommy out, did he?"

Damn the English language. "No. Daddy didn't throw his Mommy out. Dead is one of those words that sometimes gets used in different ways. When a person is dead it means (double gulp) that they don't live with us anymore."

"Like you don't live with Nana?"

"No, Mommy put that wrong." I had to pause here for a very long time to try and figure out where to go next. I finally defaulted to "She's in heaven with God, and that means that she can't come down to visit us." I paused to see where he was going next with this, hoping the phone would ring or some other distraction would come along.

"What's her name?"

"It's K."

Big smile from C. "Like A's second name!!!!!!! Is A named after her like I'm named after Nana?"

"Yes, she is. It was very important to Daddy that A have part of his Mommy."

"I like her name. She's pretty too. Can I have some milk? Soy, not cow."

"You sure can."

I was so unclear on how I should have handled this one. While M and his family believe in heaven, I do not. I really wanted to try to answer this one without defaulting to the heaven and God answer, but I was terrified of making C even more hysterical about separating from me than he already is right now. Thanks to Sunday School he knows about God and angels and sees them as non-threatening things. His favorite book right now is a child's bible, and while we're still in my comfort zone of the Old Testament, at some point we'll be making the jump to the new and I'm going to have to face my issues or turn the religious education over to M. So right or wrong, I decided to go with the party line, so to speak, and fill out the discussion when he gets a little older and I've done a lot more research on the subject of explaining death to children.

In the meantime, the pictures of K have moved a little higher up on the bookshelf.