So my mother calls me up at midnight to ask my advice. Not on art, which she knows more about anyway, but which I at least know something about, or about what to do with the packs of feral dogs that roam her small rural Pennsylvania town, but about how to deal with my three-year-old brother Max’s questions about death.
Yes, I have a three year old brother. There was an accident with some brewer’s yeast and an herbal supplement, and that’s all I’ve got to say about the matter. Proving once again that I was not just behind the door when tact was being handed out, but was in fact across town sketching frogs, my response to learning of my impending brother was “Well, fuck,” but he’s grown on me, mostly because I get to send him toys and never, ever change a diaper. It’s like insto-grandkid!
However, the little spawn has evidentally realized, at 3 1/2, that we will all someday shuffle off this mortal coil, and is worried about it. Being non-Christians, and not wanting to lie, Mom balks at simply telling him there’s a heaven so don’t worry about it, and he’s not buying “It’s a long way off,” so she’s trying “Nobody really knows, but some people believe…” and, being a wonderfully caring and desperately concerned sort, she’s afraid he’s not getting his spiritual needs met, and so solicited my advice. (God knows why–my idea of spirituality is a vague belief that I am a PC in a divine RPG, and that it would be out of character for me to speculate too much.) All I could think of cold was the line from Harry Potter “Death is the last great adventure,” so I suggested she phrase it in terms of adventure and exploration of the unknown, and maybe dig up some of the more interesting myths about the afterlife to try and engage his imagination on the matter.
So! Any of you, who may have more experience with kids, got any advice? Or do you remember something from your childhood that was horribly traumatic and definitely should be avoided? (I mean, related to learning about death, not, like, getting run over by a wildebeest or something.) All I can say is “I never had to have this talk with my cat…”