An hour at the central park in Hope, some fudge (mistake) and then the long, arduous, and confusing journey across the lower mainland to the ferry, and finally, the crossing, and home. All in all I was on the road for more than 15 hours, fighting a cold the entire way. For most of my adult life, when I’ve undergone some kind of major emotional challenge, my body works through the trauma buy getting good and sick. It’s a special two-for-one deal. The difference between ten years ago and now is that now I don’t give into the illness, but meditate on perfect health, which almost always works.
The next morning I take Silas to daycare, but Rio is set against it (Silas is set against it too, but he is still too small, and lacks the language to mount an effective counter campaign), and I can’t blame him, so he sticks with me, as I try to clean up the wreckage from the journey, both physically and emotionally. The cold that I hoped to keep at bay with COLD FX, vitamin C and positive vibrations, grabs me by the throat and works me over pretty good around the neck, shoulders and back, so my day is punctuated with moments of miserable whining, something I am well known for when ill.
By mid afternoon I’m beat. I give into the repeated requests by Rio to watch a movie, and he puts on The Two Towers, arguing that he really likes the “scary parts.” Great. Its good to have a prolific inventory of nightmares to choose from, I think. He points out that the orcs don’t brush their teeth so they become bad guys.
Kat comes by for diner, and offers to take the boys for the night so I can rest and recover from my cold. This is the sort of flexibility that she and I are so proud of in our new relationship, and I gratefully accept her offer, though its painful to let go of the boys again and again. Before they leave, Rio and I settle into the couch to snuggle and watch a bit of the movie together.
There is a scene in the Two Towers where Aragorn is portrayed as the king, cast in stone after his death, and Arwen, his bride, is seen by his side, morning his passing. Rio watches and his eyes grown narrow and he turns to me and asks, “Is that what I will look like when I die?”
“No,” I say. “That’s a sculpture of the Aragorn. It’s a carving that they made of him so people will be able to remember him. What happens to us is usually one of two things: after people are really sure that we are dead, we are buried under the ground, or we are cremated. “What’s that?” That’s when they put our bodies into a great big oven and turn on some flames and what’s left is just ashes. Then sometimes our ashes are sprinkled over a place we love, like a mountain or the ocean.”
Just saying the words make cremation sound scary. Rio starts to cry, his arms wrapped tightly around my neck. “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to go into an oven,” he says, “I want to be buried.” I assure him that it will be many, many years before he dies, and that he gets to choose what happens when he does.
I save the cheery news about embalming for some other time.
He looks into my eyes again, his face tracked with tears. “What happens to me after I die?” he asks.
“Our bodies might die and disapear,” I tell him, “but our souls, our spirit remain.” I tell him that our bodies contain our organs and our muscles and our blood, but that our souls are what allow us to feel. “Our souls are the conscious energy of the universe, and when we die, that energy returns to the trees, to the birds, to the rocks, the sky, the ocean, and to each other.”
“What is a soul for?” Rio asks.
“Our souls allow us to feel. What you are feeling right now,” I put my hand on his belly, “this worry about dieing,” and then I put my hand on his heart, “and the love you feel for momma, and Silas and me, those feelings come from our soul, our spirit. It allows us to feel joy and sorrow, fear and happiness, loneliness and love.”
I tell him that our soul allows our hearts to stay connected with each other, because our souls extend beyond our bodies and touch one other even when we are far apart.
This seems to satisfy him because he shows me some of the new scrapes and bruises he’s collected in the last few days, but later, when he touches my tear streaked face as we say goodbye, he reminds me of the drawings he did for me that afternoon.
He came down from his room to show them to me. We’d been playing together, drawing sets filled with rivers and oceans and coral reefs for the new action figures we’d picked up at the Calgary Zoo.
We talked then about love. “I love you because you played with me,” he says, after we finished our game together. I thought about that. “Our love isn’t because we do nice things for each other,” I said carefully. “Our love is about what we feel in our hearts for one another. You love me even when I get angry, don’t you?” He nodded. “And I love you even when you do something that makes me sad. Our love isn’t because of how we act, but how our hearts feel.”
I kiss him and cradle his beautiful face in my hands and say “of course you will. Love goes on forever. The energy that is you and that is me is made up of our love for one another. It will never, ever end.”
He and Kat and Silas leave and I trudge upstairs and crawl into bed. I read The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, from cover to cover, along with a few stories from Barry Lopez’s River Notes, an old, sad essay by Edward Abbey, and some of Deepak Chopra’s lovely, and spiritual translation of the Kama Sutra, before inviting sleep to descend for the night.
But before it comes, I tuck the six draws that Rio did that afternoon under my pillow. They are symbols of pure love from a boy whose heart is open so wide it casts the most radiant light on all that it touches.