About a month ago, as the kids and I were driving in the car, we noticed a very long funeral procession traversing along the local freeway. It was a quiet Saturday morning and the sight of at least 50 to 75 cars following each other in a single file line was unmistakable. The fact that there were four motorcycle cops rushing up to the nearest onramps and shutting down traffic to allow the procession to proceed only added to the sight.
Of course it wasn’t long before I heard a little voice from my inquisitive little boy (who, by law, is mandated to ask more questions each day than a week’s worth of Jeopardy) piped up from the back seat. “What are those caws doing, Daddy? Where are those caawwws going?”
Think fast old man! Where are they going? A baseball game? The beach? The local carwash? I couldn’t think of a suitable answer. My mind raced and as he waited for an answer I could feel the anxiety rising in my chest. Finally, after reaching a point where hyperventilating was a real possibility I seized upon an idea that was so far out there that I couldn’t believe I would even consider such a response. But I was desperate. So I took a deep breath and…
I told the truth.
“Monkey, someone in that black car in front of us died. They are taking that person to the cemetery so that all those people in the cars behind us can come and celebrate that person’s life.”
TheMonk, I could tell, was digesting this information. I could tell there was going to be a follow-up question. There always is. So I braced for the worst and squinted from the reality of the situation as he uttered his next question… “Well, what are the motorcycles doing?”
Motorcycles?! Oh praise the Lord! I could DO motorcycles. We spent the rest of the drive talking all about motorcycles. Not dead people. Motorcycles. I have never been so glad to discuss why some motorcycles are loud and some are quiet. I had survived!
Fast forward to this evening. We are driving along the same stretch of road that we had driven on a month prior when we witnessed that funeral procession. I was lost in thought as we cruised down the freeway with Jason Mraz providing background music. (It’s all about the Wordplay, apparently)
Suddenly, from out of the blue, TheMonk speaks up from the back. “Daddy, why did that man in the back of the car die?”
*Sigh* This time, I went straight for the truth. It worked so well last time and as I formulated my response, I began scanning the road for a motorcycle to distract us.
“Well, Buddy, just like babies are born every day, people die every day. It just happens. It’s sad when we know the person who dies because we can’t see them anymore but it’s okay that people die.”
I pause and wait for his follow-up. And when it comes, it’s a doozy.
“Daddy, what happens when someone dies. Do they ever wake up?”
As my body temperature rises, I experience a heat flash and I can’t find a Goddamned motorcycle ANYWHERE! So I take another deep breath and say…
“Buddy, when someone dies they aren’t sleeping. When someone dies they leave their body and, if they’ve been good, they go to heaven.”
Oh, shit. Why did I bring up heaven? Did I really want to go there? Maybe he didn’t hear that part.
But TheMonk heard it. “If they’ve been good they go to heaven? What’s heaven?”
“Heaven is a place where we go after we die. It is in the sky and it’s where God lives and it’s a wonderful place. But you have to be good to go there. That means you have to tell the truth, be nice to others and don’t hit people.”
Now the words are just barfing out of my mouth and I can’t control it. I know that I am sliding head first down that slippery slope and the bottom will not be pretty. And there is still not one damn motorcycle anywhere to be seen.
TheMonk, smelling blood in the water, follows up again. “You mean, if I hit, I won’t go to heaven?” He quickly mentions two younger daycare friends who, as fate would have it, are dead smack in the middle of their hitting phase. “Victoria and Jayse like to hit. They are not being nice.”
And then, a little girl voice pops up from the back seat for the first time since we started this conversation. In a matter of fact voice that is dripping in sad resignation, Swee’Pea declares…
“Yep. Victoria and Jayse aren’t going to heaven.”
*sob* I so suck at this.