Will has been asking a lot about death lately. I think the deaths of our cat and our dog (both rehoused since we moved into the apartment) recently has brought it on. But he also mentions the death of his Poppy (Jason's dad) and Baba Ada (my great-grandmother).
Last night he asked about going to heaven. I had to be honest with him and say I don't believe in heaven, not in the biblical or religious sense. In fact I believe I don't know what happens when you die. I hope that you go somewhere (we say the moon) where all the people you love who have died are and just hang out but that is just a comforting daydream. I have no way of knowing what really happens and I have no theological comfort blanket in which to wrap myself. That's fine for me as an adult but I struggle with explaining my thoughts and feelings to Will. I know he just wants to hear something simple and something comforting to help ease his sadness and fear.
I know he has fear about death and about getting old and getting sick - the two main causes of death according to my explanations (and reality, I suppose). When he brings up this conversation I am overwhelmed with a soaring excitement that my son is maturing and is able to have and grapple with these complex thoughts. I am also overwhelmed with sadness that one day we will have to leave each other in this world and that is a fact no-one can deny. There is also a huge feeling of inadequacy at being a parent and having this responsibility of bringing up a child when I feel I know so little about the world and about life.
I want to provide him with a sense of comfort and security and yet even as I say the words "mummy will always be with you" I know how untrue those words are. I can't guarantee that, not even for the rest of today, let alone into the unforseen future. I tell him that we are not old or sick and that we'll be together for a long, long time but in my heart I know I am lying for there is only one thing I am certain of, our ultimate fate is not in our hands. These thoughts make me sad for the parents who have lost children and the children who have lost parents.
I always try to be philosophical about death, it is life's only guarantee. I try not to be afraid. But sitting with my gorgeous son in his cosy bedroom at night sometimes I allow myself to catch a glimpse of the demons hiding around the corner, and I am afraid.