It’s a tough day when your kids get hit by the reality that the ‘everyone dies’ rule will not be broken by their own family.
My husband and I have always followed a routine with our girls at bedtime, and each night we tuck them, with wishes for sweet dreams and, usually, a question from our youngest, who uses this as a sly ploy to prolong her awake time.
However, a few months ago, Amelie looked rather more solemn than is usual when posing her bedtime Q. As I leant over to cuddle her, she wrapped her twiglet arms around me and wedged her little face to mine, eyes wide and fervent in the dark.
“I’ll be sad when you die, Mummy.”
Her eyes blurred with puddles of the saddest tears, and she held on tight.
I lied smoothly – for as all adults know, there are no guarantees as to the nasty surprises that life will throw at you on an otherwise mundane Tuesday – and did my best to reassure her that this wasn’t something she need worry about for a long while.
But as I walked away and plodded back downstairs, the unfathomable tragedy of what she’d realized hit me full blow: her innocence is gone, she knows all life will end.
Having experienced the loss of my dad at a young age, I am no stranger to this knowledge, but I sometimes feel an extreme melancholy that I have brought my children into a world to face this fact. I have shown them the wonder of the world in which we live, only to blow it up in their faces by shattering the fantasy with my sharp shards of reality.
There are no easy answers when we discuss life, and I am always blown away with how my girls are, in essence, a tiny pair of existentialists.
I have always been a fan of the philosopher of Heidegger. In moments such as these, we need to remember that there could just as easily have been nothing – and isn’t it astounding that there is, actually, everything.
A particular egg, a particular sperm, a particular split-second in time, and here you are.
And yes, we won’t be around forever to experience this everything, so make sure that whilst you are here, you grab on tight. In fact, it is only by recognizing the sourness of death, that we are truly able to appreciate the sweetness of living.
First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 3rd March 2015