“Dad,” my son began, “I don’t want to die.”
It was a surprising statement to greet you in the morning. Instead of reacting to this question with reassurances, I wanted to find out what triggered him to ask.
“Oh,” I replied, “what happened?”
“I know that we all die someday,” he continued, “but I just want to stay here.”
“Are we going anywhere?” I asked.
“It’s not that I’m saying we shouldn’t die, because we do… I know that. It’s just that I want to die when I’m older. Not now… due to an accident or sickness or something,” he explained.
“Did anything happen in school?” I probed.
A former classmate’s mother died of cancer. It affected the faculty and the children because she was a parent who participated in most school activities. When her illness became apparent and she could no longer be with him, her son lost interest in school. He wanted to stay home and take care of his mother.
She died a few weeks ago.
I could not answer his question. I told him that I felt the same way about staying here where it feels safe and secure. I told him that there are certain things we can do to remain healthy, like throwing trash where it belongs, washing hands, and looking at both sides of the road when crossing. I told him how Daddy’s job at the hospital means that he deals with death and dying everyday, but Daddy is not even close to knowing the answers. I asked for his help to find some of these answers.
“I like my school because it has a great library,” he said. “Do you think I can find some answers there?”
“Yes,” I replied. “You might be able to find some answers there. But keep an open mind, because some answers may be found in places you least expect.”
“Ok, Dad,” he said.
Then we hugged for a few moments. I whispered an “I love you” and asked him to be careful, be watchful, and be brave.
What would you have told him?