Tonight during prayers, Boy asked that his grandfather not die, ever. “That’s so nice,” I sighed, before going on, in the heartless way that parenting sometimes seems to require,  to say that everyone dies, and that if we didn’t, there wouldn’t be enough room for everyone. Boy acknowledged that we’d have to build more houses, if that were the case. True.

“When we die, does God fix us?” Boy went on to ask. I waited.

“Does God put us back together?” Theological questions seem to be a specialty of preschool-aged children.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Does He put us back together so He can send us back here?” he gestured with his hands, encompassing the bed, the room, our family, our town, life as he knows it.

I talked to him about dust and living soul and how the living soul part is what remains, the part that makes Boy Boy. I added that if I’d had another life here, I didn’t know it (I asked if he had lived another life, and he said no, too), and I talked about how our souls will, as Boy puts it, “go to God” after we die.

These are the kinds of moments that catch me off guard. Much like childbirth classes can do little to prepare you for the reality of having a baby at home all day, every day, reading books about child development (expect them to grow so many inches! they should sleep so many hours! they should be able to pick up small objects with their toes while their hands are tied behind their backs!) do little to prepare you for the reality of your developing child. To be fair, how could we anticipate the questions, explicit or implicit, that children have about their world, both the now and the hereafter? (“But I can’t see God!” Boy said earlier, looking around in the darkness. “If we have living soul in all of us, God is in all of us,” I told him.) How should we answer these questions? What did I leave out? Was there something deeper than I should have asked but didn’t?

Seemingly satisfied, Boy settled down and went to sleep. If the questions weighed heavily on him, his slow breathing didn’t show it. I could return to worrying about daily matters, like laundry and dishes and scattered toys – but suddenly, that all seemed much less important.

 

 

 

 

 

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