Tonight while puting my oldest son to bed he asked me if dying and not really living was the same thing. My brilliant on the fly answer was, “That’s a deep question Gabe.” He said, “Questions can’t be deep. They’re just words. So what’s the difference between not really living and dying?” Being a literal thinker who also thinks in pictures I figure he is picturing a pool or lake that is deep in-depth. My mind began racing.
First of all, why in the world is he asking me this? Where did it come from? I am sure he must have heard it somewhere and one of his autistic traits is that he memorizes lines and then repeats them, sometimes over and over and over again. So I assume he heard this on T.V. I know him, and for him to ask me this question I know it’s been on his mind for a while.
Secondly, how do I answer this on an eight year old level without giving it much forethought? You see, another trait of my sons is he cannot or does not accept “I don’t know” for an answer. That is very frustrating for him, he can’t let the question (or thought) go without fulfilling or completing it. So I had to come up with something. I say something like, “A deep question means – it is a question that requires a lot of thought and possibly different people will come up with different answers. It doesn’t have an exact right or wrong answer.” He seemed to accept this but posed the question again, “Is dying and not really living the same thing?”
No more stalling. I just tell him as best I can. “Son, everybody is going to die. But when people talk about someone dying they are usually talking about someone who is sick or old, whose body is quickly breaking down. Not really living means that someone isn’t living their fullest life. They aren’t making good choices for themselves and their community. They aren’t enjoying life. Maybe they have had a hard time so they don’t feel like getting up and being productive and doing stuff. Some people would call this not really living.”
He was quiet a minute. I’m not sure how much he really understood but he accepted it. Then he said, “Well momma, I don’t want to be dying so I’ll be doing some living for a long time.” Me, “You know Gabe, God decides how long we’ll live. But we decide what kind of living we are going to do while we’re here.” He shook his head. I really think he got it. Then he said, “Why would you say a question is deep? It’s just a lot of words.”
I wouldn’t change his way of thinking for world. I can’t imagine missing out on all these words that make up our conversations. He challenges me and amazes me. It’s some of my favorite one on one time with one of my most favorite people.
Hind Sight: While proofreading and editing this blog it occurred to me that my son has watch the movie Simon Birch a few times in the past couple of days. The movie deals with life and death and understanding one’s purpose. I’m guessing this is what got my son thinking.