I Want to be a Woodchip

Shortly after 4 bedtime stories, 3 goodnight kisses, 2 tuck ins and 1 glass of water, part of an arsenal of light’s out stalling tactics, Mei finally quieted down for sleep. Or maybe not, as evidenced later by a piercing wail, followed by her (rarely sympathetic) older sister calling, “Mom, come quick. Mei is afraid she is going to die!”

Mei clung to me with the Vulcan grip only a frightened 5-year-old can muster, sobbing into my shoulder, “I wish I had never been born a person because people die. I wish I was a wood chip, because they don’t ever die. They only turn to dust.”

My kids always end up at schools where playgrounds are covered with the dusty chips, instead of that bouncy, recycled sneaker surface that costs a bundle. Both girls bring them home in their shoes, folds of clothing, hanging in their hair. Mei likes to cram her pockets full of the wooden nuggets, where they remain hidden until I find a soggy pile at the bottom of the washer.

Despite this close association with dead tree bits, I didn’t know what to say. A comparison between the life cycle of trees and the decay of the human body wasn’t what she needed. So she clung and cried, I soothed and whispered about God’s promises. Death is not the end! Jesus will be with us always!  She wasn’t impressed when I couldn’t tell her exactly how God would do all this, and we ended with a little prayer and a vow to reread “When Dinosaurs Die” (best resource for kids and death) in the morning.

Years of theology, preaching funerals and even accompanying others in their dying and I am still at a loss when approached by a five-year-old’s urgent questions about death, which are about as real as you can get. But keep ’em coming. Such questions, which can cling to us like wood chips, make for parenting and life moments that are as real as you can get.



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3 responses to “I Want to be a Woodchip

  1. Tory

    In the days I stayed with you, I constantly shared stories with my friends about the fun and wonderful times with you and Helen. A friend once suggested I start a blog titled “Breakfast with a Four-Year-Old” to log all the things I was learning about life through conversations with Helen–and of course the funny moments too. This post captures your moment with Mei perfectly and makes me miss those breakfast conversations (and even the early morning cold toes, bony elbows, and her insistence that it was time to get up, since “the big hand was on the 7″…never mind that the little hand was on the “4” or “5”).

  2. Thanks for keeping it real, each of us carries a bit of Mei’s fear within us. That’s why faith is hope in things unseen…..?

  3. Cricket Hunter

    Ah, but woodchips rarely experience joy, right? Joy and death are part of the same Human package. Not so comforting about the death part, though. I’ve spend a fair amount of time looking at books for children that deal with death, and haven’t found a whole lot worthwhile. I will have to look at When Dinosaurs Die! I like Judith Viorst’s The 10th Good Thing About Barney for coping with loss, but it doesn’t deal with the death end of the experience, or with faith: just keeping hold of the love and friendship even in deep sadness. The Next Place kinda tackles the “what next” experience, but it’s not that satisfying, particularly to the concrete, detail-oriented needs of the age group at which it’s aimed. This one http://www.amazon.com/Lifetimes-beautiful-explain-death-children/dp/0553340239 is very simple, beautiful, and sweet. It doesn’t mess with what comes next, but does address death as part of life. You’re a wonderful parent, Amy! Thank you for sharing this journey.

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