Do not go gentle into that good night. – Dylan Thomas
“Hey Mom, are you gonna die soon?” This was a question my daughter whispered to me as I tucked her into bed a few nights ago. No, readers, I’m not sick with some terminal illness; I’m just an older parent. I was fifty-two when I gave birth and my daughter recently turned eight. You do the math.
In our family, age has never been a determining factor for how long we get to stay on this planet. My younger sister died at 27, my father at 47 so I have, in some ways, felt I have lived, at least for the past twenty years, on borrowed time. That is not to say I haven’t done everything in my power to stay vital and fit, because I have, but I have always prided myself in thinking outside the box in terms of what one should be, look, or act at a certain age. It wasn’t until my child asked me this very straightforward question, though, that I wondered if living an unconventional life was going to come back and bite me in the ass.
I looked into her big blue questioning eyes and realized, I could respond in one of two ways. I could wail and beat my breast over the brutal reality of life and tell her, that yes, Mama, is sliding toward home base and the reaper’s embrace or I could, laugh, shrug it off, and reassure her that no way is mama going anywhere anytime soon.
I opted for the latter. One of the few positive aspects about growing older is that I have learned that while the truth may set you free, sometimes a lie is the better choice. At eight, my daughter, whose favorite book is Peter Pan, needs to know that I will never grow old, always be within arm’s reach, and will protect her forever. Later, when she is older, I will tell her how my enormous love for her will keep me with her, long after I am gone. But, for now, on this cold winter night as we snuggle under the covers, my professed immortality relaxes her. Minutes later, she has drifted off, and with the palm of my hand gently resting on the small of her back, I lay in the darkness, comforted by the steady rhythm of her breathing.