We revisited the end of the Earth today.
The Lad (aged six) and I were reading Beowulf over lunch. Not my choice; the lad is drawn to it. He suddenly stopped me, starting to look upset.
“Mummy, I don’t want to think about the end of the Earth, for two reasons. But I keep on thinking about it.”
“Firstly, I don’t want to think about the end of the Earth at all. Secondly, I don’t want to think about not being there to see it. Because I can’t think about what it is like to be dead.”
[soothing noises from me]
“I can’t think about it! But I keep thinking about it.”
[more soothing noises]
[hugs] “Thinking about death is scary and big and difficult, and adults find it very hard too. We’re here to talk about it if you ever want to.”
“That’s why many religions have made up stories about what happens after death, to help them think about death and to help them feel better.”
“What kind of stories?”
“Well, you remember the Egyptians, with their gods of death and the way they were carefully buried with organs and gold for their afterlife.”
“And Christians believe there is a ‘heaven’ after death.”
“Well, people think about it in different ways, except they all think it is a nice place. Some people think about it as if they will be dancing on clouds and playing harps and wearing angel wings!” [attempt to lighten the mood a little]
“Oh! Yes, I saw heaven in Tom & Jerry.” [laughter]
“We should look up some of the legends of other religions, how they think about the afterlife.”
“They’re MYTHS mummy, not legends.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Myths are something that could absolutely not be true, and legends are something that could be true. And some people believe them, but they’re not.”
“Oh.” [I swear, this was uncoached and unaltered – I don’t recall talking about the difference between myths and legends with him before, and on a re-read it sounded like something I’d made up and inserted into the conversation; it wasn’t.]
“Some people believe there is a kind of heaven for dogs after they die – they go over a Rainbow Bridge and play with all the other dogs who have died, and get lots of bones.”
[weak grin, still teary]
“But I still don’t want to think about the end of the Earth, but I keep thinking about it, and I can’t stop!”
“Sometimes you can put in a good memory instead of a bad one, when it’s bothering you.”
“There are some good things I really remember even though they were ages ago. I remember going on a plane with Granddad and having Christmas down South.”
“That’s a lovely memory. Sometimes I think of my brain like a bunch of memory boxes. If a bad one keeps coming out, I try to slam it back into the box and take out a good memory or a good thought out of a different box.”
“I’ll try that.” “No, boxes aren’t working. I’ll try jars.” “It’s still not working!” [sigh]
“Mm, I understand. Sometimes it takes lots of practice. And sometimes you just have to think about the sad things, and feel sad for a while, to deal with them.”
[dubious looks in my direction]
“I don’t want to think about the end of the Earth, mummy. Will you talk about heaven to me every day until it goes away?”
“Sure, if you want me to. And we’ll find some story books, too.”
To followup on our discussion about the suitability of The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, we watched it sans Daddy, and while the Lad found it objectively scary, it didn’t freak him out at all. He loves the Slitheen episodes, and got a lot out of Father’s Day despite it being a bit grim. (He now keeps reminding me that you “don’t meddle with time”.) We’re about to watch The Parting of the Ways/Children in Need/Christmas Invasion, which will be his first death-and-regeneration sequence (we’ve just dipped into classic Who, but haven’t seen any regens yet).
We haven’t told him about the Doctor’s regeneration; all he knows is that “The Doctor looks different sometimes”. I’m so looking forward to this.