Article

Dying

conversations with hank

 

Me: (in bed, sick, suffering from a raging headache and exhausted from the previous nights bout of pain-somina)

Hank: Hey, mama.

Me: Howdy, sailor. What’s shaking?

Hank: I am getting ready for bed. What are you doing?

Me: Netflix and chill, my head hurts too much to read right now.

Hank: I’m sorry, can I watch with you for a bit? My head hurts, too. I drank some of your tea and papa gave me a little medicine.

Me: Well, aren’t we a pair of jars.** You can join me, but I am afraid that the novela (soap opera) I am watching is very sad at the moment. Can you handle some sadness?

Hank: Maybe. What is happening?

Me: (pointing to the paused screen) This man is very sick and he is going to die.

Hank: That is very sad. (pause) Mama, does it hurt when you die?

Me: No, not usually, but it can. Your brain is marvelously helpful when it comes to pain so if it does hurt it is only for a moment and then your body goes into shock which takes the pain away so don’t be afraid of pain. More often than not people die dreaming.

Hank: Really?

Me: Yup. Either they’re dreaming naturally or a doctor has given a medicine to help them relax and peacefully dream away. (pause) Are you afraid of dying?

Hank: Um… I don’t know. I think I am afraid of the sadness and if it is scary and things like that.

Me: Nobel fears. Totally justified.

Hank: But then you go to heaven.

Me: That is one name for it. In truth, no one really knows. As it should be the next journey is a mystery. You wouldn’t want to read the book if you knew the ending.

Hank: You say that a lot, but I don’t know what that means all the time.

Me: It’s a metaphor. Let me try another. If you watched a movie would you want to read the book no matter how different and amazing it was?

Hank: (giggling) No. I understand now.

Me: Death must be a mystery so we get the most out of our life. We all die. All of us and at varying times, but that isn’t the sadness for the person who dies, the sadness is for the people who live without them. Our bodies are fragile, Hank, but we are not our bodies. You are not a body, but a soul, uma alma. Your body is merely the house for your soul. Your body is like a snail shell. A beautiful snail shell that is half of your papa and half of me and a mix of all of our ancestors who lived before us. I don’t know what happens when we die, but I do know this and with all my heart: Life isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Life is very short, very precious and love is why we’re here.

Hank: How do you know?

Me: I know it in my bones. I have always known, even when I was little. Religions are just the words, teachings and ideas used by people and cultures to explain life and all religions have two things in common: faith and love.

Hank: What is faith?

Me: Fé, convicção (faith, conviction). It is the knowing, the conviction that something is true beyond proof. Faith and love have the same core: we don’t know why, there is no real proof, it just is. I love you. I don’t need proof or why. I just do. The why is irrelevant? It’s a mystery.

Hank: And you need the mystery to get to the end.

Me: I never thought of it that way, but that is exactly what I am trying to say. Thank you. Loving is risky and a lot can go wrong, but without it the rest of life doesn’t matter. And it isn’t just the love of people it is love of all things. The love of animals and nature and books and art and the sea and snuggling under blankets and hot chocolate and ice cream and Hogwarts and sunsets and hedgehogs…

Hank: (giggling)

Me: …and technology and penguins and vlogs and windmills and caves and Nerdfighteria and broccoli and stardust and fairies and magic and gravel roads and dusty cars and music and fireflies…
Love is your last chance. There is nothing else on earth to keep you here.***

Hank: (leaning into my shoulder) I get it now.

Me: (deep breath) Do you want to watch this novela (soap opera) with me?

Hank: I do. A little sadness is good sometimes. (deep sigh) I will just cry and that’s okay.

Me: That is perfectly okay. (pushing play)

 

** “Mas que belo par de jarras,” (what a beautiful pair of jars) is a Portuguese expression normally delivered sarcastically when encountering odd fellows, stray cats or a couple of grandpas swapping lies on a park bench.

***Modified quote from Louis Aragon which reads: Love is your last chance. There is really nothing else on earth to keep you there.