She does not want to eat the fish grilling on the BBQ when she learns it has died, and must die to be eaten. We did not want to tell her this, but she asks. We are not all prepared for the question, even if we didn't not want to lie. The fish doesn't want to die. Neither do trees she says, and I'll never cut down a tree. Weeds don't want to die either. Again, why did the man with the sick heart die, mom? I keep thinking about him. And what about you, mama? Are you going to die? What about me? Will I live a long time? Will I live a long long long long long long long long long long long time, mom?
We all die, I tell her. We try not to, but we all die. It’s okay though because we're made of stardust and when we die we go back to being stardust. Our atoms and molecules become flowers and butterflies.
Because we’ll get old, and our bodies can’t keep working. Or we get hurt badly, and our bodies can’t recover.
Why? What about this fish? Did we kill him? Why? Why, mama, why? Why? Why? Why?
I am harrowed, hearing these words in her sweet small voice. Die, die, dead, kill, die. She makes me feel witless and ineloquent.
Like any mom out of her depth I use the opportunity to push my own agenda. I talk about vegetables, water, sleep and exercise. I talk about looking both ways before crossing the street. I talk about compassion and the dangers of greed. Finally, I say no matter what happens, I'll always love you. Forever. And ever and ever and ever. Even when I'm stardust.
What if you die before me, mom? Then I'm damn lucky I want to tell her. But I say I'LL STILL LOVE YOU. I'll never not love you. Stardust to stardust. I'll be the flowers in your yard, and I'll love you. I promise.