I’m an atheist and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve been an atheist ever since I graduated from a Lutheran elementary school and realized how polarizing and convoluted religion can be… even as a 12-year-old. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to force my children to be atheists. I’m not going to force them to do anything except takes naps and eat their vegetables. What I am going to do is give them the space they need to decide for themselves. With that being said, I still found myself in a bit of a quandary when asked the following question by my toddler after a tragic car accident in our neighborhood killed an entire family.
Toddler: Papa, what does it mean to “die?”
Me (Papa): ……………Well, when someone dies, it means that his or her life is over. It’s the opposite of being born.
Toddler: ……….(crickets)…………but but but… they go back in their Mommies’ bellies?
Me: No. When someone dies, they go somewhere else. I don’t know where.
Toddler: They go an invisible place?
Me: (little smile) Yes, they go to an invisible place, so you can’t see them anymore, but you can still remember what they looked like in your mind. And you can talk to them in your dreams.
Toddler: Am I going to die, Papa?
Me: (and this is what breaks my heart) …..Someday…everything and everyone dies. That’s why we have to make every moment that we’re alive special. But you know what? Papa will make sure you are alive for a very very very very very long time.
Toddler: Thanks, Papa. I won’t let you die either.