“Mom, I’m going to die someday," he tells me from the toilet, as he requests me to stand there because he’s afraid of the starfish above the sink.
“Well, I hope not soon,” I reply, curious as to where this is going. I know it’s coming from the fact that it is his older sister’s birthday, his sister he never met because she died four years before he was born.
“Why not, mom? We all die. Someday.” He outstretches his hands wider than the toilet seat he sits on as his legs dangle in midair, too short to touch the ground where his Spider-Man underwear lay, waiting for him to return.
“I know, honey. But, it would make me sad if we couldn’t spend more time together. Because I want to spend as much time with you as we can.”
He doesn’t know it, but I think then of all the time I never got with his sister that I get with him because she isn’t here. Without her death, he would never be. It’s a strange truth to hold, even when I’m not contemplating death with a four-year-old while he’s tooting.
“I know, mom,” he continues, like this is all normal, not just the conversation while he’s peeing but the talk of death already at four.
“But when we die, we become star stuff and we can twinkle at each other so we know we are together.” He finishes his thought by opening and closing his fists and fingers in each other’s direction as if they are each a star, twinkling at the other.
I sniffle at his sweetness, “Sweetie, you’re making me cry.”
“Why mom? We’ll be together.” He says with his two hands now made into one fist and a sweet shoulder shrug, as if he believes he has it all figured out. “Mom, I’m sorry I caused raindrops on your face.” (Raindrops are what he calls tears. I know, I know, too cute.)
“I’m crying because you made me happy, honey. Because you’re so sweet.” I wipe away a raindrop from the corner of my eye as I smile at him to reassure him he hasn’t broken my heart but in actuality widened it.
He perks up. Sitting straight up on the toilet he declares, “Ok, mom. Now wipe my butt. I pooped.”
And that’s the life of a bereaved mother parenting after loss--death intertwined with life and poop and raindrops, hearts widening and breaking all at the same time.