Tonight, in the shower, as I was explaining to Ava why she couldn’t use soap (because of her eczema), she wanted to know if I had had eczema like that when I was little. I explained that I had not, but that her Daddy had.
She said, “Oh, and you took Daddy to the doctor about that.” (If at all possible, Ava would visit the doctor every day. She is obsessed with stethoscopes and loves to visit just so that they can listen to her heart).
“No,” I said. “When Daddy was little, I was little too.”
“Oh, but then who looked after me?”
“Well you see, when Daddy and I were little you hadn’t been born.”
“But I was in your tummy.”
“Well… no… not really. Mummy and Daddy were little, we hadn’t even met each other. You didn’t exist yet.”
“What does that mean?”
What does that mean? Now I’m sure my darling little four-year-old was not trying to get all deep-and-meaningful tonight… but it raised some questions for me that are always just bubbling under the surface.
It is so strange to think that we are these immensely complex creatures, with millions of thoughts and feelings and dreams, but in terms of the universe we are just this tiny blip. For hundreds of millions of years the world and the universe existed without a you or a me… and then we are born, and we have this incredibly short time to live our lives… and then we die, and we don’t exist anymore – back to the beginning.
I have always been incredibly scared of death. I was brought up in a non-religious home, and I have grown up believing in humanity (that we are here to love and to be good to each other) but not in a higher being. There are still times when I wish I could have been brought up with some faith, so that when I thought of death, I didn’t associate it with this blanket of eternal darkness that makes my palms sweat and my heart beat faster.
Just after Ava was born, I went through a particularly fearful period (suffering from insomnia for almost three months). Long after Barry fell asleep I would toss and turn in bed, unable to sleep as my mind tried to find some sort of solution to this inevitable outcome. I cried, I reasoned, I rationalised… but I couldn’t find an answer.
After making this new life that I loved more than I could have ever imagined, it was harder than ever for me to find peace with the finality and uncertainty of death. Eventually the fear didn’t feel so raw. Most of the time I am able to bury it deep down and carry on with the busy-ness of life, trying to drink in the magic of each moment and ignore the heaviness of my heart. However, these fears always manage to catch up to me at some point, even in the peaceful moments, and my palms sweat and my stomach tightens until I can bury them down again.
For now, she is four. Tomorrow when she wakes up, she probably won’t even remember that we had this conversation. But what about when she has questions like this for real? How do I answer her? I can’t even find the answers for myself.
I don’t mean to burden you with these thoughts. I want this blog to be a joyous and inspiring place, but this was weighing on my mind and I’d be so interested to hear what you think… to know if there is anyone like me who has these thoughts and worries.