A winter gale is buffeting and battering our wee wooden house. Inside baths are finished, teeth are brushed (after a fashion) pyjamas, snuggly and warm, leapt into and stories have been read. The lights are dimmed, the nightlight is on. It is one of the most wonderful moments of parenthood. It is perfect in the way it sounds, in the way it smells, in the way it feels. As I lean down for the last cuddle of our bedtime ritual little arms draw me to her firmly and clutch me more tightly than usual. The tiniest, breathiest voice whispers into my ear.. ” I don’t want you to die Mummy” I freeze as imperceptibly as I can.
What do I say? I can’t tell her it’s not going to happen. She has lost all her grandparents already and she knows that whatever else may be true that dying means you don’t get to see that person anymore, you don’t get to be held by them and you miss them. And when you miss them it hurts. At 5 she knows that life is finite and that the only true physical certainty of life is eventual death.
I can’t tell her it’s not going to happen soon. I don’t know. There is perhaps a Highland fatalism that “you never know the moment”. One of my elderly neighbours used to end every conversation, however brief, saying “if we are spared”. You never know the moment.
My mind races. I remember when my Mother was dying that I could not stop thinking about what a friend of mine had said about her own mortality. “Now I’m a Mum” she said,” I don’t want to die, I never want to leave my girls”. In one short sentence, whispered into the twilight of bedtime, my daughter has given voice to both our greatest fears. That one day, we will be separated.
All of this crashes about in the parent receptors of my brain like a train wreck. Barely a second has passed.
“Me either” I say and I hold her.
It seems I said the right thing ..5 minutes later the sum of all her fears had floated away.
This post is linked to Ordinary Moments