She was six when she first learned about death.
As she walked to school the next day, a cold winter morning, clutching her father’s hand so tight, a plethora of emotions ran through the man who held her hand. He had covered his face with a scarf-kind-of-a-thing, so as to not reveal his face. He would not want the girl to know his father was dead, and he wanted to pretend to be one just as good. But somehow, even in front of the six-year-old, his courage faltered, and he fumbled while walking. The girl saw his eyes, and they spoke. The eyes spoke to each other of the lies they hid within them. “Where is father?” she said softly now, almost about to break into tears.
The man did not have an answer. He wanted to choose between, “He’s gone far away to visit your granny,” and “He has become a star in the sky,” but instead he chose to say, “He’s dead.”
“What is dead?” asked the small girl.
“Dead means you will never see him anymore.”
“Why? Is he angry with me?”
“Yes, he is. Why didn’t you have all your food today?”
“If I have my lunch, will he come see me?”
“He might,” he said, eyes red with lies, shamed to hell.
When she entered the class, her teacher asked why she was late, and she replied, “Because my father’s dead.”
“Who told you that?” the teacher retracted, trying to hide her tears, but her voice had already welled up too much to fake that she was still angry.
It was fascinating to see how the girl didn’t feel sad. She thought it was a trip his father had been to, to a place where her grandparents lived. She thought he was a star in the skies, but also thought it was easy to go up there, once you did good deeds.
As a mother, she narrates the tale to her daughter today. She is six, and she is thirty, pained by her husband’s death, but doesn’t want her child to be the way she was. She has learned, from experiences that were bitter, that truth might hurt, but when it is dark and you are all by yourself, truth is the only thing that will keep you warm, like a bonfire in the winter, like a warm fireplace where the cat huddles herself to sleep, awaiting another morning, another dawn, that will bring back light into her eyes, and she will see clearly albeit the fog, what awaits her on the other side on the road.