A Mother And Child’s Dialogue On Death

Life in its meandering course of time influences, changes, ignites and reaffirms many a thought. When these thoughts are comfortably soaked up in our mind space they become precious belief systems through which we then filter and witness our life. I have one such belief system which is shared by a considerable population on earth. I believe in reincarnation, law of karma and the cycle of life and death. It stands strong on both the grounds of logic and mystic and explains a whole lot of events in our personal life which otherwise have no explanation.
 In the process of upbringing, we pass on so much subtly and unwittingly to our off springs.  And quite unintentionally I passed on this belief system to my little son. He is a curious and sharp child all of five years. Sitting with his great grandmother one evening, he suddenly asked me the whereabouts of my grandmother. So I told him she was now in heaven with God. It didn’t end there; rather irked his inquisitive mind. Next he asked me about my maternal grandmother. To which I informed that she lived in Delhi and he quickly recalled meeting her once.
But the next question stumped me. He matter-of-factly stated, “She looks quite old mom.” I acquiesced. “So how come she is still here and your dadi (paternal grandmother) has already gone to heaven?”

 I was quite zapped at his innocent logic but he demanded a reasonable reply. So I told him gently that God decides everybody’s stay on earth and when that time is over they have to go to heaven. I thought the topic was over but it just got trickier.
His alert mind countered back,   “So does it mean anybody goes to heaven at anytime not just old people?” he paused only to make it difficult, “even young people and kids?” I couldn’t deny the truth of life no matter how harsh it seemed to his tender being. I just nodded and turned away.
But he wouldn’t stop; it seemed he was on a quest of reality. The next sentence however shook me out of my wits.
“If young children can go to heaven, I might also go?” he asked simply looking puzzled and anxious. I caught a note of fear in his voice, “But mummy I don’t want to go to heaven. I love the earth. I want to be here with everybody and all my friends.”
When your child talks about the morbidity of death and includes himself in it, it can unnerve you like nothing else. But I wanted to comfort him, allay his fears and doubts. I stroked him and said, “Aman, you don’t have to think about all this. I am very sure God wants you to be on Earth for a very long time like a hundred years to enjoy.”
 He looked relieved and pleased, the conversation would have ended there. But just out of nowhere or my belief system I blurted, “And people who go to heaven they all come back on earth anyway”. I thought he would be totally assured now. But contrary to my assumed reaction my last piece of information though made him chuckle, added more doubts.
So now his next concern was, “Oh that’s good Mamma, but tell me when I come back on earth would you be my mom again?”
“I don’t know darling. I can’t say that.” I could only add so much to ease his whirring mind. I didn’t want to give him some pleasant sounding but misleading or false notions.
But he insisted, “But I want the same mummy and papa.” Along with the insistence there was another worry, “Okay tell me when I come back on earth, will I be a baby again?” “Of course yes” I responded.
“I don’t want to become a baby again. It is too boring to keep lying in one place.” he whined grumpily.
I had to eventually call it quits and divert him to another conversation because I had no more answers to his prolonged inquiry on the uncomfortable topic of mortality. I realized that forever we have been scared and intimidated by the concept of death no matter it being the most inevitable and undeniable truth of our life. And this fear is also a part of our belief system which we have inherited and will pass onto our next generation. It is a hushed topic especially in front of our kids because we want to protect them from the harsh and unpleasant side of life.
 But when I had this conversation with my son it dawned on me that naturally no one at any age will be fully emotionally equipped to handle the loss of their loved ones. But the minds of our little ones are more malleable and logical than we assume. They also comprehend and assimilate the physical phenomenon of life, death and life after death (as in my case) with a bit of childlike detachment. It is this skill of looking at life through the window pane, where you see the rain coming down and kissing the earth, streaming through its life the same rain goes back to a dark cloud up in the heaven and comes down again unknown at another time and place on earth.