“Are You Going to Burn My Daddy?”

 

7 year old Alex asked me a question. Her mother brought her in with her to make arrangements for her husband, Daniel, who had tragically lost his life in a car accident.

“Are you going to burn my daddy?”

She looked up at me, with huge earnest eyes. I didn’t know what to say to her.

The next few moments felt like hours.

I frantically wiped the shock from my face and replaced it with my go-to poker face. At least I considered it a poker face– it probably looked more like like a cross between surpassing the urge to vomit, and holding in a fart. Probably a more accurate description of what I was actually feeling.

 “Are you going to burn my daddy?”

The question reverberated inside of my head. I tried to find the words to explain something so final to someone so young.

I looked over to her mother, silently praying for her to step in, to tell Alex to be quiet, to remind her that this was a conversation for adults, and not appropriate for her to be included in.

I was waiting for something, anything, but what I got was:

“You can tell her.”

I didn’t want to tell her. It felt like I was stealing her innocence. Exposing her to something as gruesome as death, to cement the knowledge that her daddy was never coming home in anything other than an urn.

I took a breath, and reminded myself that death has no age restriction. There is no acceptable time to be prepared. The thing about death is that when it feels like it, it forces a relationship with you whether you want it or not. It won’t be ignored. I just didn’t want to be the one to forge that relationship for Alex.

“Yes Alex, I am.”

She aged right before my eyes.

“Will you be careful?”

“ I will. I promise.”

 

 

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