Wednesday, September 5, 2007

fun times

Between my two boys, Ezra is generally way more sensitive. He feels anxious about being late for school, he rushes to defend our cat when Lilah tries to "play" with her, he cries when we watch Sophie's Choice Bambi, he blushes and looks down at the floor when he gets reprimanded. (Sometimes.)

Whereas Levi seems not to have a shred of remorse about anything he does, he delights in stomping on bugs and destroying spider webs, he's quick to recover from injury--whether it's a biting remark or a head butt to the belly. He's also incredibly affectionate and snuggly and he kisses like a pro; it's just that he comes across as so much less vulnerable than Ezra.

Yet Ezra, though he has been talking about death on and off for a while now, has always treated it very matter-of-factly. And Levi, well, here was Levi last night as I was tucking him into bed:

"Mommy, am I going to die?"

"Yeah, you are, someday."

He looked absolutely terrified and started wailing. (A small part of me was thinking, Poor child, and a small part of me was thinking, I have no idea how to have this conversation. But, to be honest, most of me was thinking, This better not keep him awake because if it does, I won't be able to get anything done tonight and he'll have a shitty day at school tomorrow.)

"But"--I'm such a quick thinker--"not for a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, reaaaaaaaaallllllllllly [hey, that was fun typing just then!] long time."

He calmed down long enough to ask, "Do girls die too?"

"Yes, I said. "Girls die too."

"Then I want to die with you!" he said, and started to cry again.

"Okay," I said. I wasn't going to press him on that one. And then he was quiet for a while.

"Mommy, what's going to happen after you die?" He pointed to me with his chubby little index finger.

"You'll be sad for a while, and over time you'll start to feel better again, and--"

"When people die, do they stop breathing?"

"Yes." More tears.

"I don't want to stop breathing!"

"Okay, you don't have to."

"I want to be alive so I can play with you, and Ezra, and Daddy, and Lilah." (Have I mentioned how much I love this boy?)

"Okay, you can do that. We'll all be alive for a long, long time."

"And when you die, is it forever?"

"Yes." His lip started quivering and he was trying so hard to hold back his tears so he could get out the next question.

"You don't come back alive?"

"No"--the floodgates opened again, so there I was thinking fast again--"but some people believe that you do."

"That's what I want to do."

At this point, Ezra leaned over the top bunk and asked, "When your heart gets tired and stops beeping, does it rest?" I had no idea he had been listening the whole time.

"Beating," I said. "Yeah, sort of."

"And then after it rests for a while it starts beating again?"

"Not usually, no."

"Oh," he said, and lay back down. See, to him it's just information.

Then Levi: "How do people come back alive?"

"I'm not really sure," I said. "Maybe they just think about it really hard."

"That's what I'm going to do. When I die, I'm going to think really hard about coming back alive."

That seemed to settle him, and then he planted a luscious kiss on each of my cheeks and rolled over.

But it left me thinking heavy thoughts. Not that this is anything new: Now that I have a husband and kids, I worry about death all the time. I have the same terror about it that Levi has. I feel the same sense of panic and longing, the wish never to be apart. It hurts, this love thing; it really does.

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