by REBECCA SPARROW
I’d just put a forkful of turkey and stuffing in my mouth when she asked the question.
Do children die?
It was not the question I was expecting my four year old to ask me over Christmas Day lunch. But she asked it and as I attempted not to choke on my food and wondered if shouting “Oh my God, I just saw Dora outside!” would distract her, I realised I had to answer.
“Yes,” I said. “They do sometimes. But mostly people die when they are really, really, really old.”
“Like 100?” she said.
“Yes,” I lied.
“When you’re 100, are you as big as a giant?”
“Well, no. Because giants aren’t real. They’re just in storybooks.”
“Hmm.” And with that, the moment was over and Ava went back to pretending her beans were a group of people who appeared to talk in a Scottish accent.
And I went back to shoveling way too much food into my mouth and wondering exactly how many roast potatoes is, you know, too many roast potatoes to have on my plate.
But of course the moment wasn’t over. And for the next few hours and days and weeks, Ava continued to ask me questions about death. Did it hurt? Why did people die? Was I going to die? If Grandpa is really, really old then is he going to die soon?
And it made me realise how completely unprepared I was for these conversations. Well, unprepared in the sense that I wanted to answer in a way that wasn’t going to frighten or distress her. And yet, I also wanted to tell Ava the truth.