13 hours ago
Thursday, March 5, 2015
It seemed like a great thing: Max had to read a page about Olympic gold medalist runner Wilma Rudolph and fill out a mini research report. We sat at the kitchen table, where we usually do homework, and I helped him read it, discussing points along the way so he could better understand and retain the information.
The page noted that she lived from 1940 to 1994. I wasn't sure Max understood the concept of death, and I'm still not quite sure why I decided to try to explain it to him in the midst of the Wilma Rudolph report, but I did.
I said, "Max, Wilma Rudolph died in 1994, which means she stopped living."
Max looked at me, curiously. He put one hand to his eye. "Eye?" he asked.
I was confused. Then I realized he meant: Did she cry when she died? He'd seen me crying when my dad died in 2011, and he was making that association.
"No, Max," I said. "When you die, your heart stops beating, you don't breathe and you aren't alive anymore. So you can't cry."
"Why?" he asked. As in: Why do people die?
"People often die when they are very old, or if they get sick," I said.
"Ick!" he said, pointing to me and making a coughing sound. I've had a pesky cough for three months now.
"No, I''m OK, Max!" I promised.
Sabrina walked into the kitchen. "It's like you go to sleep and you don't wake up," she said.
Then her face crumbled and she started to cry.
"Honey! What's wrong?" I asked.
"I don't want you to die," she sobbed. "I want you to always be here."
I grabbed her and said that Dave and I would be around for a very long time to take care of her. Then Max's bottom lip started trembling and I hugged him with my other arm.
Eventually we all calmed down, and I helped Max finish his report.
File under: Good intentions gone awry.
Posted by Ellen Seidman at 6:40 AM