"Are You Going to Burn My Daddy?"
7 year old Alex asked me a question. Her mother brought her in with her to make arrangements for her husband, Daniel, who had tragically lost his life in a car accident.“Are you going to burn my daddy?"She looked up at me, with huge earnest eyes. I didn’t know what to say to her.The next few moments felt like hours.I frantically wiped the shock from my face and replaced it with my go-to poker face. At least I considered it a poker face-- it probably looked more like like a cross between surpassing the urge to vomit, and holding in a fart. Probably a more accurate description of what I was actually feeling. “Are you going to burn my daddy?"The question reverberated inside of my head. I tried to find the words to explain something so final to someone so young.I looked over to her mother, silently praying for her to step in, to tell Alex to be quiet, to remind her that this was a conversation for adults, and not appropriate for her to be included in.I was waiting for something, anything, but what I got was:“You can tell her."I didn’t want to tell her. It felt like I was stealing her innocence. Exposing her to something as gruesome as death, to cement the knowledge that her daddy was never coming home in anything other than an urn.I took a breath, and reminded myself that death has no age restriction. There is no acceptable time to be prepared. The thing about death is that when it feels like it, it forces a relationship with you whether you want it or not. It won’t be ignored. I just didn’t want to be the one to forge that relationship for Alex.“Yes Alex, I am."She aged right before my eyes.“Will you be careful?"“ I will. I promise."