Monday, November 23, 2009


My daughter displays a strong fascination with death. She asks questions about death and dying, notes that Simon (our dog) will one day die (as well as me and my husband), and speaks often of ghosts.

Our goal thus far has been to embrace her curiosity, answer her questions thoughtfully and honestly, and remain open to anything and everything that may come—all the while offering reassurance without being false or patronizing. (For example: "Yes, mommy and daddy will die one day, but hopefully not for a long, long time. You'll be much older and you might even have a family of your own.")

I'm not sure I have ever been scared of death, per se, but I do think my understanding of death and relationship to it have changed as I've gotten older. Perhaps because I have lost several significant people; perhaps because I have had a few close calls reminding me of the always-present truth of my own mortality.

I heard a story on NPR last week... part of their StoryCorps series (which I love). The interview featured two parents talking about their son's death at age 9. What makes the story unique is how the little boy knew he was going to die and the very careful way he prepared for his death - mindfully, courageously, and lovingly.

It made me think about my grandmother's death and the way she fought against her aging and eventually her dying with fear and fury. I sometimes wonder if my daughter is my grandmother reincarnated. There have been little breadcrumbs and strange coincidental clues... but ultimately, my imagined and hoped-for connection between the two speaks more to the process of my grief than a heartfelt conviction they are the same soul.

How nice, though, if she might somehow move forward - whether it be karmically or generationally - to feel less fearful of death. To see it more as a component of life. Sad, difficult, unasked for... but inevitable and therefore unnecessary to fight against.

I read a theory somewhere long ago suggesting families, and more specifically descendants along the same line in a family, undergo subtle physical changes linked to biologically-driven evolution and a strengthening of the genetic lineage of a particular group.

The author then went on to suggest a similar transformation takes place with regard to spiritual growth. Each generation inherits the lessons of the prior (blending the path of their parents, who connect back to their parents and so on) and moves forward to strengthen their spiritual core and successfully resolve issues passed along a metaphysical line of lineage and history.

I believe this to be true, having seen it in action in my own life and now watching it unfold in my daughter's. What are our lessons, then, as a family - or more specifically, as a line of women connected together and reaching back through generations? My sense, so far, is they include the following major themes:

anxiety, and

Not death, though. Which is some form of progress, I suppose.

May all stages of life feel natural to you. May you find acceptance for each new phase along the way.


  1. I love this! I grew up wondering if I had a karmic connection to my father's sister who died when she was 21. We look a bit alike, had interests in common. My parents gave me jewelry that belonged to her, put artwork she made in my room . . . Whether I have an explicit link to her or it's simply generational, I always found it comforting.

  2. Thank you, Rachel. What a beautiful story - I love how your family was able to take something that must have been very painful and find such a loving and positive way to honor her memory and find a place for her in your life. It sounds like the link between you is very strong. ;)