Preschool Questions About Death


I feel better today , cheerful at least. I took a ton of recycling down to the transfer station and found some cool books from the 1920s.

The recycle grandpas monitored me to make certain I did not take more than my fair share. After I left, I suspect a small scuffle broke out over the juicer I left behind. Those guys looked spry. Whole fruits must be in their diets!

Liev came home very grumpy and, of course, he had a fever. Have you ever been in an irritable pissy mood and all you wanted to do was argue or bitch about Bill O’Reilly? That was him.

He had serious stuff on his mind.

Out of the blue he said, “Why do we have to die?”

After I picked my jaw off the floor I said, “It’s part of the circle of life, we are born and then we die.” (thank you Land Before Time).

Thus our conversation continued:

Liev: “No but, why do we die??”
Me: “Uhm. Well, when we get older, our bodies wear out.”
Liev: “When will I die? When will my body wear out?”
Me: “Ahh, uhm. Well, not for a long time.”
Liev: “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to wear out. When will I die?”

I did my parental homework long ago to learn how to answer these types questions. For now–keep it simple for four year olds.

Me: “We don’t know when we will die.”
Liev: “But I want to know when I will die. How old will I be?”
Me: “Very old, sweetheart, it’s a long way off.”
Liev: “How old will I be?”
Me: “Oh, in your eighties.”
Liev: “No. Nineties. I’ll be a hundred and eleven when I die. And also, I will have 10 billion friends.”
Me: “10 billion?”
Liev: “Uh-huh. Right now there are 8 billion people on earth and they are my friends. When I die it will be 10 billion.”
Me: “Okay.”
Liev: “When will my stomach wear out? Will I die when my stomach wears out?”

And so on. In the end, I was unable to keep it simple, so I went on a monologue about how doctors will one day be able to fix people so you don’t have to die, but he lost interest. I think if I give him a body maintenance schedule, next time he asks I can avoid the question “What happens when you die?” And heaven help me if he learns that accidents can make you die…

ETA: Where there is smoke there is fire. One of Liev’s classmates died. She had a degenerative neurological condition and lost her fight. The staff and teachers were abuzz, speaking of the child’s passing and perhaps assuming little autistics couldn’t understand. I received a note about the death two days after it occurred. Little Liev questions were understandably sensitive and existential.

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