"Do you know if someone goes to Heaven that maybe they will come back here again...?" he asked/said.
The teacher didn't quite get it all.
"What?", she asked me.
"I think he might be asking you if you believe in reincarnation." I said.
She looked at him, "I think that is a better question for your mommy", she said.
"I just wanna know if Maxie and Jakey are coming back here", he responded.
She looked concerned.
"We have these kinds of conversations all of the time.", I said.
Mo is increasingly interested in his big brother. He asks me about Max all of the time. His questions are sometimes heavy and they even make him sad when he thinks about them too hard - which he is prone to do. Sometimes, he is sad for long periods of time and gets frustrated that the answers don't come together the way he wants. Other times, he comes up with other things to be sad about because he doesn't seem quite sure himself of why missing a brother he never met makes him feel so sad.
"I miss Max", he says a lot. "When is he coming back?"
"I don't think he is coming back Bubbah. We won't see him again until we are in Heaven with him", I say.
"I want to play with Max", he replies.
"So do I", I say.
Sometimes, he comes up with ideas that he thinks will make me happy, "How about I get on a cloud and go to Heaven and ask G-d to give Max and Jake back to us? That's a good idea. Right Mommy?"
"It is a really good idea Bubs", I say. "I don't know how to get on the cloud, but maybe we can figure it out one day".
It's heavy and Mo is already an emotionally mature little boy. He feels things very deeply. But I don't really see the point in pretending I am not sad about it. It has been so awful to have adults pretending like they don't think it is sad or pretending not to feel their own sadness. I am not even sure most of them are pretending, they've just pushed it aside - to make room for talk about the weather or work or common neighborhood gossip. In fact, I think that as a culture, we have been shoving down our feelings for so long that we actually don't feel that much anymore....even about things that are, without question, very very sad.
Like a child dying. Or a little boy knowing that he almost had a big brother to play with, but that his big brother died before they ever got to play. It's sad.....and he feels sad. I know that many would not agree, but I really believe that his is an appropriate emotional response that I don't feel the need to shut down.
Ted and I have talked about the luxury so many parents have at being upset that the father died in "The Good Dinosaur" or about any character dying in any movie. "I don't want my child to have to think about that", they say. Though I'm not really sure you have the choice ...because terrible sad things happen in this life and we aren't always prepared for them.
After Max died, friends with kids were always asking me how I thought they should explain to their children what happened to Max. Many of them decided not to tell their kids, because it was too much and might upset them. At times, I have even resented the questions: I don't want to be involved with how you tell your child about death. It's not my responsibility. Just because my child died, doesn't mean I have to be responsible for figuring out how you talk to your kid about death. Another luxury as I see it. I don't really want to have to talk to my own child about death. And, more than anything, I didn't want my child to die. I didn't ask for this, but since this is what I've got, I'm just going to be open about it.
Mo has a life that is filled with lots of fun and happiness. He also knows that there is a sadder side of life - and I can't say I am happy about that. As much as I wish that his life would bring only happiness - I know that it won't. Every life has its sorrows. I hope that Mo will know that amidst the deepest tragedies and disappointments, there is resilience. I hope that he always finds the road that feels authentic and true to him. I hope that he continues to question the un-understandable, the unimaginable and the unfair. I hope that when life knocks the wind out of him, that he doesn't feel like he needs to pretend that he feels anything other than what he feels. And I hope that he remains the beautiful, deeply feeling, loving, empathetic soul that he is today.