This morning, Ella and I had our first conversation about death.
“Mom, what happened to this ant?” Ella asked.
Just a few moments ago, this ant had been scurrying around the kitchen floor while we made breakfast.
“Oh, it looks like that ant got squished. One of us must have stepped on it accidentally. We didn’t mean to.”
“What is it doing now?”
“Well, honey…come here. I’ll tell you what happened.”
I crouch down next to Ella. She’s sitting in front of the ant with her legs on either side of it’s tiny body.
“Ella, I’m going to teach you a new word. Are you ready?”
She stared intently into my eyes and nodded.
“The word is death. This little ant got squished and died. It can’t move or run around anymore.”
Ella thought for a moment before saying, “it can’t run?”
This was turning in to a delicate situation. Fast.
“No. It cannot.” I replied calmly.
Ella’s eyes began to water. Her lip began to tremble and pucker. Crap.
She cried hard. More like a wail.
I scooped her up into my arms. Pecans tumbled out of her lap onto the floor.
Her head on my chest, we sat on the couch. I let her cry it out, petting her head.
“You’re sad about the ant.”
“It’s okay to be sad.”
This went on for about five minutes.
Finally, she looked up at me and said, “the ant died now?”
“Yes, but you know what honey? It’s okay! I’ll tell you why. There is another word I want to teach you.”
She stopped crying completely now and waited for me to speak.
“This word is soul.
Every one and every thing has a soul. It’s what we are on the inside. Our heart. Our mind…
and you know what?”
“Our soul NEVER dies.”
Ella looked relieved. Excited even.
“So honey, even though that ant’s body is crumpled up on the floor, it’s soul, it’s inside, is still alive somewhere, we just can’t see it. But maybe it will come alive again as another ant someday.”
I could tell Ella thought this was cool.
“A big one?” she replied.
“Yes!” I said, enthusiastically.
“As big as the sky! With WINGS!” Ella exclaimed.
“Yes, honey. A really big, happy ant that can fly.”
And with that, Ella scooped back up her pecans, and asked to see the ant again. I hadn’t yet removed it from the kitchen floor.
From the next room I could hear her, talking to the dead ant.
“It’s okay ant,” she told it’s body. “You’ll be a big ant again some day.”
And that was our first experience with death.
I’d say it went really, really well.