My daughter was four-and-a-half when our cat died.
She didn’t see her die, she just saw her get old and sick.
I don’t really know how much children understand about death at that age, but obviously they know enough to understand that if one living creature can die, just cease to exist, be here no more, the same thing might happen to others, sooner or later.
I don’t know if my daughter was trying to imagine me gone, not being here for her anymore, not reading to her at night, or combing her hair in the morning. She might have. I guess that’s why she pleaded “I don’t want you to die, mama.”
When she asked “Will you die too, mama?” I couldn’t tell her “No, I won’t,” because I know I will.
All of us will. Sooner or later.
But I also couldn’t stomach saying that point blank. So I twisted the answer as much as I could.
I do take some solace in the fact that even when I’m gone, I will, in a way, live on, in her. She’s my daughter – my flesh and blood, as they used to say, or “50 percent of my genes” as we might say nowadays, though that doesn’t sound nearly as profound.
Her kids, if she has any – my grandchildren, may remember me, depending how long I’ll live. The great-grandchildren probably won’t know much about me, but even when I’m gone, my DNA, I hope, will continue being passed on, from generation to generation.
Whether there is anything beyond this world or not, the thought that I’ll live on in my descendants is somewhat comforting.
And that’s why I wrote “Explaining Death.”
I was very happy to hear from Mike Joyce, the Editor of Literary Orphans, that he liked it enough to accept it. The poem appeared in the August, 2013 issue of Literary Orphans. After reading the issue, I felt humbled to be in the company of many amazing writers. Please, do read Literary Orphans. It’s definitely worth your time.