My son was 3 years old. We were on a short walk back from visiting the river when we noticed a dead raccoon at the side of the road. Seeing it, my son asked, “Papa, what is that”? It was my son’s first encounter with death. I was a nervous about how I was going to handle it. “That is a dead raccoon, honey,” I replied. He asked if we could walk over and see it. “How’d he die, Papa?” my son asked with an innocent, sad voice and big expectant eyes. Without my thoughts collected, I thought I’d use that moment for a moral lesson. Duh. “Well, the raccoon did not listen to his father. Father raccoon always told him to hold his hand when crossing a street. He didn’t this time and got hit by a car.”
Staring at the dead roadkill raccoon with big eyes, my son then said, “Papa, can I ask you a question?” And I thought, here it comes, the life-after-death issue. I could tell by looking at his eyes that my dear little boy, my first-born child, was going to ask me a deep question. “Sure, son. What is it?” I replied expectantly. My son paused, then asked with hesitation, “May I jump on it.” Relieved of not needed to have a heavy talk, I nonethess inappropriately I let him jump.