Dealing With Death



I’ve been struggling to help the twins get comfortable with the concept of Death (as much as anyone could get comfortable with that), ever since a few years ago when a  well-intentioned relative told them that everyone else in her family was dead.

“What is ‘dead’?” Halle & Zanna wondered.

When they became more informed on the subject, they were aghast and terrified.

They thought that they were in immediate danger of suddenly dropping dead, or that mommy & daddy would.

There have been many tears shed over this.

Holidays like Passover (Hello Angel of Death and dead babies!), Easter (Hello tortured and crucified Jesus!), school fundraisers for juvenile congenital heart defects (Hello nice video shown in school about dying children!) and one elderly pet goldfish (Thank you for your hunger strike!) have done nothing to help me keep my kids’ minds off of this morbid subject.

Yes, I’m aware of the Circle Of Life, the food chain and all that jazz, thank you very much!  But that doesn’t do much to comfort my kids.

I’m Jewish but teetering between agnostic and atheist, so it basically amounts to me telling them fairy tales about how there is a benevolent God out there who loves them, Jesus their distant cousin (a very nice Jewish boy from Galilee, don’t ya know!) and angels and Heaven.

Apparently I did too good of a job describing (potentially mythical) Heaven, because Halle was all for joining our dearly departed goldfish post haste.  So I told her that she has to wait her turn for when God decides she needs to go, and line-cutters need not apply.  Those go to the other place.  The Hot Place (where homophobes, terrorists and cult leaders go).  So she’s ok to wait her turn now.

But every so often the girls still ask about dying.  Am I SURE there’s really a Heaven and that there’s eternal life?  “Sure!” I reply, lying through my teeth.  I’ve explained that their body is a meatsuit (Thank you Supernatural!) that their soul wears until it’s learned all that God wants it to before going to Heaven.  And as long as we keep our meatsuits healthy and stay safe (by listening to mommy & daddy) we’ll live a long, long time.

But then, last week, we had a Passover celebration at Shabbat school.  A presentation was made by the teachers about the Angel of Death killing all the Egyptian babies (Gee, thank you SO much!) and my kids came home traumatized.

Angel of Death.  Killing babies.  What’s not to like?


So I explained that the Egyptians in those days (and I apologize profusely to anyone who may be offended by this) didn’t feed their babies healthy food because they were rich and spoiled, so the babies got sick, whereas the Hebrews were slaves and couldn’t afford junk food and they fed their kids healthy stuff, so those babies didn’t get sick.

And the Angel of Death certainly did NOT kill any babies at all, whatsoever!  He just collected the souls of the ones who died so he could take them straight to the nursery in Heaven where the babies could play and be happy and meet their ancestors.

Otherwise, there would be babies crawling all over the place, crying, pooping, getting stepped on by everyone else, Oy! What chaos that would be!  So the Angel of Death is merely being helpful!

My girls thought that was a very good idea indeed!  Babies, after all, belong in nurseries being cared for, and not crawling around loose all over the place.

And then came the video at school about children dying of congenital heart defects.  I have a cousin who died as a child from a heart defect.

Zanna couldn’t sleep at night because she was afraid she’d die of a heart defect.  She was in tears about it.  I had to explain that A) she did not have a heart defect, and B) even if she or mommy & daddy did drop their meatsuits and go to Heaven, Heaven was a nice place full of nice people who love us, and we could still visit whomever we love, even if they can’t see us.

Halle is utterly convinced about how nice a place Heaven is, and keeps telling me how eager she is to go there. (Oy vey!)  So I have to keep reminding her about line-cutters and the Very Hot Place.

And while I’m spinning these lovely tales of the afterlife, I’ve got no idea if any of it’s true or not.  Maybe someday the girls will come to the conclusion that it’s all on the same level as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and part of the magic of childhood to believe in such things, or they might decide that religion makes sense for them.  Either way, I’m ok.  As long as it’s a good experience for them and hurts no one, then I see no harm in anyone’s belief about anything.


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