What’s with the Trees?

Atrees1I laid down with him to put him to sleep and he, hearing so much adult talk about current events, asked, “Maka, what happens when you die?”

He was about three when he started forming thoughts into well-rounded sentences. Some of the concepts his innocent, little mind conjured would entertain us for hours. It wasn’t unusual for my first-born grandson to sit among the young adults adding his two-cents, which intrigued them into encouraging more.

He routinely stayed with me every weekend and often in between. From the first words my grandson tried to speak, one was an endearing name for me that combined “Grandma” and my given first name, resulting in “Maka.” Our 45-minute drive to my house was always the same, down the New Jersey thruway and its off-ramp lined with well-established trees.

Atrees3On one occasion the seasons were changing from summer to fall and trees surrounding my exit had turned from lush green to a bare, stark gray. Seated in his passenger-side car seat as we slowed to exit, my grandson was in his typical gaze out the window.

All of the sudden, with a toddler’s ‘this just isn’t right’ alarm, he stated emphatically:

Hey! What’s with the trees?

The commitment in his young voice, in noticing such a profound revelation of nature that was not the least bit natural in his opinion, was hysterical.

Living in New York then and heavily reported in the news, shortly after singer Eric Clapton’s toddler son fell to his death from their New York apartment window another child died the same way. Those spawned belaboring discussions and debate involving child safety. Not long after, my elderly next door neighbor, with whom my grandson had developed a caring rapport, also died. Apparently overhearing all of this talk about dying caused him to ponder the concept of death.

Atrees2Visiting one night I laid down with him to put him to sleep and he wanted to toddler-talk. After typical chit-chat about his day and having heard so much adult talk about death, he asked me,

Maka, what happens when you die?

I fumbled trying to explain in toddler terms and a way that wouldn’t scare him. He hesitated, then, with a keen awareness that death meant permanent absence from others in your life and not wanting those he loved to overhear, he lowered his voice and secretly whispered toward my ear,

“Maka, when you die can I go with you?”

I don’t remember my reply, only the melting of my heart..


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