I hate being an atheist. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.
I wish I could believe in God, in heaven, in the hereafter. But no amount of wishing will make me believe something that I do not believe.
Tonight, as I was tucking TRex into bed, he asked about death. He asked what happens. He asked where do you go. He asked about the cemetery and whether everyone goes to the cemetery. The Mad Scientist and I explained that not everyone does. He asked what we will do. The Mad Scientist explained that we plan to give our organs, tissues, and whatever else they need to save another person's life, then cremate the rest.
First, he wanted to know what happened to the ashes. I explained the choices availble and told him about my grandpa's ashes in the memorial garden. "But what if you die mommy, where we will bring flowers?" I had to explain that he could buy my favorite roses and have them on his table to remember me by.
Then he wanted to know why people would donate organs. We of course explained that it was the greatest gift you could give and how tissue donors saved the Dancing Queen's life. On his own, TRex came up with "the gift of living".
Next, TRex wanted to know if it would hurt when they cut you up to get the organs. When I explained that you are no longer there after you die, he asked in a shakey, scared voice "And the doctors do nothing?" I had to say "if you are dead, there is nothing that can be done."
I watched him very closely up until that point. I saw the connections being made. I tried to change the subject to something positive, but it was no use. He needed to go there. "What do you mean, mommy?" I told him that when someone dies, you can't hug them any more, you can't kiss them, you will never be able to talk to them again. "Mommy, that is very sad. Do some people cry when someone dies?"
Of course I responded that most people cry when someone they love dies.
"But what if you die tomorrow, Mommy?"
I was sobbing silent tears. "You will be sad and it will be hard, but you'll go on with your life, make new memories, and be happy. You will always know that I love you forever and ever and always. And know that we live each day to the fullest, loving each other and getting lots of hugs now."
"I wish life didn't have to be that way, Mommy."
"I know, baby. I know. But this is how life is. Everyone is born and everyone dies."
"But I wish it didn't have to be that way."
"Mommy, why are you crying?"
The Mad Scientist stepped in, kissed TRex, hugged him close, reassured him of the wonders of life and how we expect to be around for a very long time. I composed myself. Then I kissed TRex good night again, closed the door to his room, and broke down completely. I have never seen that sweet little 5 year old boy so scared in my life.
I wanted to tell him when you die, you go to heaven. I wanted him to know that there was more, that he'd see us again. I wanted to give him anything that I could to help him be less scared. But I don't believe that. I can't. I've tried. It would so much easier if I believed. I wouldn't have to expose my children to the pain that is this life without the ultimate silver lining.
I guess in the end though, if we make each day count, like we try to do, we don't need the silver lining at the end. We'll make sure we find the silver lining in each day.