so we were getting ready to have lunch the other day when the news came on. before I even knew what was happening, I found myself in the middle of a delicate conversation about death with my four year-old daughter ava. two very important-looking catholic officials (dressed in full regalia- cardinals, I think) were being interviewed about the funeral of the pope. and thus, the conversation began.
"momma, what are those costumes those guys are wearing?"
"um. well, those are special clothes they wear for their job at the church they go to."
"why do they look like that?"
"well, it's like a costume. I mean, a uniform. you know, special clothes."
so ava is now watching actual footage of the funeral. oh people. I don't know why I didn't turn the television off. all I can say was that it was unfolding before me like some sort of unstoppable wreck. of course, more questions:
"momma, who's that man? what happened to that man?"
"well, that's the pope and he was in charge of this really big church and he died. they're having a funeral for him."
"but what does that mean?"
"okay. well. when someone dies, they have something like a quiet party for them. so they can say goodbye to the person who died."
"but how did he die?"
"well, he was very, very, very, VERY old and sometimes people just die when they are old."
and I knew exactly where all this was going, knew the questions were going to keep coming, because one question about death (or sex) always leads to another (and another and another). and so I chose to continue to answer them as simply and honestly as I could. because what else could I do? plus, I want ava to feel like she can ask me anything about anything and everything. and then, in such a timid, heart-breaking little voice, she hit me with this one:
"so, is daddy going to be very, very old someday?"
(translation: is daddy going to die?)
"well, yes. someday. but not for a very, very long time. but everyone dies. we are born and we live and then someday, usually when we are very old, we die. it's just how things are in our world."
"so what happens when you die?"
"well. we believe that you go to a place called heaven."
"what is that? where is that?"
"okay, yes. well, it's way up high in the sky, far away from this world and it is very beautiful with all kinds of fun things to do and clouds (yes people I said that. I said CLOUDS.) and God is there."
"well, how is that guy going to get all the way up there?"
"that guy? oh you mean the pope? well, we don't really know how it happens. maybe God reaches a big, strong hand down and takes us up into the sky. I don't know, mommy doesn't know. no one really knows."
"is God going to make that guy better?"
"well, no. because that guy has already died. but God has the power to make people better sometimes."
"if I get a big owie on my knee, will God reach down with his big hand and take me up to the sky?"
(dear lord, what have I done)
"no, because the owie on your knee won't make you die, see? so it won't be time for you to go to heaven yet. you have a long, long time to live before you die. but God can probably help you with your boo-boo."
"what are they going to do with that man now?"
and I just could not bring myself to tell her the plain truth here. that they were going to bury him. which meant that they were going to physically put his body into the ground. I just couldn't stand the idea of what might go through her sweet, bright little mind (and the questions that I might be forced to answer as the wheels of her brain worked overtime to comprehend that sort of reality) so I wimped out and sort of skimmed over it and talked more about heaven (pretty clouds! pretty clouds!) and just as suddenly as it all began, it was over. she became interested in something else (polly pocket-related, most likely) and was on her merry little way. I, on the other hand, was numb from the entire interaction. rendered completely speechless by the profundity of the conversation I'd just had with ava. did I say all the right things? should I have said more? less? my mind was racing.
motherhood. it's crazy. always throwing me curve balls out of the clear blue stinkin sky.