As a young child, I was extremely scared of death or anything to do with dead. In my first year of primary school, during a visit to a shrine, I physically threw up. Being considered as disrespectful to war heroes, I was banned for any more shrine visits which was a big relief for me.
My paternal grandfather died early. He was regarded as one of the predominant figures in my extended family. My grandmother used to hold many ceremonies throughout a year to pray for my grandfather and other deceased. I used to get very stressed during a ceremonial period. I often took refuge at my maternal grandparents’ place, or was given some pocket money to eat at a local restaurant. I would not touch any food at home for a week or two.
I had very strong Object Personification Synaesthesia when I was young, and am still having it. I had never known what it was let alone the proper name until recently. Cemeteries, graves, and food used to pray all had personalities. Objects quite often become alive. I will talk in more details another time. Today’s story is about my younger son Thomas and how he deals with the concept of death.
September 2011, I took both of my boys to visit my then terminally ill maternal grandmother overseas. She passed away two months later. I told my kids about the death. Thomas, who was 5 at the time, started asking me questions every now and then. I didn’t pay too much attention. One day, he told me that he wanted to become a doctor so that he could save lives. I thought wow! Then he brought home a Christmas card he wrote at school. He wrote to my grandma and said he wished she didn’t die. I was very touched.
I didn’t pick up any sign along the way. I did wonder how come he was so attached to his great-grandmother whom he only visited twice, the first time he was 18 months old. It was not until a month later that I realised what was going on.
I was woken up by him at 3am in the morning. He came to my bedroom and made a huge statement loudly, but calmly, “I want to live forever!” I was half asleep and I said to my husband, “what does he want?” My husband said Thomas wanted to live forever. We looked at each other very confused. I took him back to bed without asking him any more questions. The next morning I asked him why he came to us and made that statement. He told me because he had a nightmare and someone died in his dream. Next two days, it became worse. I only thought he was still traumatised by his great-grandma’s death. I sat down with him and asked him if we could have a chat. He then asked me if there was one person, even just one person in this world who could live forever. I asked him why. He said that would give him hope. It finally made me realise why he had been behaving like this. I must have told him that everyone would die one day. Great-grandma was 90 and it was a good age. That must have shocked him so much. He could not come to the term that life had a limit and what grown ups considered a good age was such a small number.
After I told him it would be hard for anyone to live forever. He then started exploring a few other options. He asked me if someone died, was there any possibility to come alive again. I told him some people believed in re-birth. He reminded me not to forget to take my mobile phone with me so that he could find me wherever I would be. But after exploring this option a bit deeper, he said he didn’t think it would work.
Then I explained to him some people believed in heaven. When a physical body dies, the spirit can still be alive. We might be in the heaven waiting for him to join us. He decided that wouldn’t work for him either as once he goes underground, he could not talk to anyone. Finally, he realised that there was no avenue left for him. He cried and announced, “this is the saddest day in my life. I wished I had never been born or I had just been born and I could live 5 more years”. The rest of the day, his concerns became quite different. He concerned that the underground must be very crowded and it would eventually run out of room. I could not believe I was having this type of conversation with my little son!
The next morning, he was very ill. He couldn’t eat breakfast and had a major headache. I knew he was depressed by the previous day’s conversation. I determined to seek a way to give him some new hope. I spoke to one of my colleagues and did some research on bionic bodies. I felt so hopeful. I went home and told him about what I had discovered. He looked at me suspiciously. “Are you sure Mummy?” I showed him a couple of websites. His eyes lit up. He asked my husband what the biggest number he knew. One trillion? My husband asked him why. I smiled as I knew what he was going to say. “That will be how long I am going to live!”
He ran to his brother. “We are going to live forever!” “But one trillion is not forever!”, said Skye.
But to me, I am happy to live until one trillion, doesn’t matter on Mars or on earth with my close to one trillion year old children, grandchildren and great-great-great…..children……