So tonight my daughter asked me what “die” means. Normally, I’d skate around something like this and just let her school teachers explain it to her (I’d also do the same for “bus station skank”), but it came right after bed time prayers.
“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
Before I go further, you should know I was only kidding about letting the school teachers field a question like that. I’d definitely trust her Chinese nail artist with it. Still joking.
I couldn’t deflect this one at this time. Otherwise that little prayer we say religiously (no pun intended) means nothing to her. It always has to this point, I know, but her asking something like this stops me from going through my days pretending she knows exactly what she’s saying.
I don’t remember what I said verbatim. Not important to share, really. Something along the lines of the world’s been here long before we were and will carry on long after we do this thing called “dying,” and we’re a tiny little blip on a timeline that’s longer than South Carolina. Of course, I threw something in there about God, yadda, yadda, yadda. Again, not going to give my ultra-religious buddies (Lord knows they’re out there – after all, I have like 200 Facebook friends) material to critique.
It got me thinking about how solemnly alarming it is to think we will all die. Hasn’t bothered me much before – living’s as much a part of life as being born. We’re really no better than a hyena in the evolutionary scheme of things – far worse, actually. We’re born, we die, we rot. That’s what happens to our bodies.
But suddenly, that means something to me. Applying that to Kalista is tragic. Heartbreaking. Awful.
Writing about it is like watching a car accident: Terrible, but you can’t stop yourself. Those walks, weeknight dinners at the table together, the cumulative hours painting her fingernails, combing her hair and learning how to install barrettes … no one will even know they happened 150 years from now.
Few will most likely even know we existed.
That is the way it is and has always been. I’m sure my great great grandparents were wonderful people. But the truth is, no one I know knows anything about them, including myself. I reckon this understanding is what causes people to rely on faith – there’s significance to it all as long as you’re under the impression you’ll never truly die. The alternative would be the existentialist life Albert Camus wrote about, which is downright appalling.
I eventually pulled myself from these clouds, went through the good night routine with Kalista and spent a little more time than usual rubbing her hair to put her to sleep. I came away feeling that it’s not the people who remember you after you’re dead who matter as much as it is the people who love you while you’re alive.
I have faith in this.