In my parenting belief, no kid is too young to learn about anything. If, after you have explained and they still catch no ball, then you may conclude that. If not, no parent should underestimate their children’s ability to comprehend anything which adults think ‘kids-are-too-young-to-know-this’.
“Babies, remember Bear-nin-por , whom you saw on Sunday at the hospital?”
My 4-year-old and 2-year-old nodded vigorously.
“Yes, she died yesterday. That means she is no longer breathing. Her heart has stopped beating. We will not see her anymore.”
“Why.” asked both in unison.
“Remember she is very sick? She is too sick and too weak for the heart to continue to beat. When a person dies, the body has to leave this earth, leave this world. So she will be put into a box called the coffin where she will lie inside. Then the coffin will be burnt. What will be left is ashes, just like the dust we see.”
“Will it be very pain?” asked my elder one.
“No, Bear-nin do not feel anything, because she is dead already. When someone dies, its very sad for the whole family and everyone who loved her. So it is not a happy thing when someone dies.”
“Will I die?” asked the 4-year-old.
“Everyone will die one day. But so long as you are healthy and be careful when you cross the road, you will not die so soon. You will grow old like ma-ma (grandmother) and when you cannot grow any older because you are too weak, your heart will stop, you will stop breathing and that’s when you will die.”
“But papa’s friend’s grandmother is 100 years old already, why she haven’t die yet? (remembering the story his dad told him just a few days ago.)”
“That is because she is very strong and healthy. So see? When you are strong and healthy, you can live longer and will not die so soon, understand? But if you cross the road and forgot to look left and right, a car may come and knock you down, then what will happen?”
“DIE!” (Suddenly as he mouthed that word, that stern look on his face was so familiar and I remembered the time when this word was used almost everyday by this little fellow. I can’t help but giggled a little.)
“Yes. That’s a smart boy. So you need to be extra careful when you cross the road, ok?”
Nodded the boys again. I was pretty impressed by this time that the younger one was still paying 100% attention to the discussion which was very much just between his brother and I.
“Remember whenever we see a yellow or white tent below blocks of flats, papa and mommy always say don’t look at it, its ‘ not-nice’ - That is where the funeral is held. That is where the dead body lies in the coffin for everyone to see for the last time before the dead body is sent for crematory, for burning. That’s why papa and mommy tell you that its ‘not-nice’, don’t look at it. When a person dies, the face is white in colour and its ‘not-nice’ to look at.”
(for the benefit of my non-Singaporean blogger friends - over here in Singapore, the Chinese will usually have the funeral procession done at the void deck below the block of flat where the dead used to stay. The wake can range from 3 to 7 days where chanting, prayers and burning of incense paper beside the coffin will be done. The lengthy days is especially significant for relatives who are overseas to come back in time to see the face of their loved one for the last time.)
“Then will Singapore be no-more?” questioned Keatkeat.
“HUH?” I was prepared for all sorts of questions related to death and corpse and spirit but this really puzzled me. “What do you mean will Singapore be no-more?”
“If everybody dies, then Singapore will not have anyone and so there will not be Singapore anymore, right?” looking at me with his bright eyes.
Wow! Isn’t this little guy something?! He can think so many steps ahead, he can for-see what is to come if everyone eventually dies. I was impressed. So if I want to talk about death, its inevitable that I should talk about birth, and so I did.
“Keatkeat, every second which means, even as we are talking now, a baby is born and at the same time someone is dead. That is how the earth or Singapore will never be gone. So there will always be people in this world.” I thought I explained too briefly and wanted to add on. Hey but the smart boy figured it out….
“Just like now Bear-nin-por dies but Bernice (our neighbour’s daughter) comes out from Bernice’s mommy’s tummy, right?” explained the little man. All of a sudden, he got up on his feet and caressed my back, “Mommy, don’t be sad ok.”
And that brought tears streaming down my eyes….tears for the lost of my great aunt and tears of joy for having such a great son. Its a blessing and I am thankful, very thankful…