"Baby! What's wrong?"
"I don't want to die. I'm going to get old and I'm going to die."
My heart ached for my little love. I put Elizabeth in the car and wrapped my arms around shoulders that aren't so very far below mine. "That's not going to happen for a very, very long time."
"People get old and then they die. I never want to die!"
"Oh baby! This isn't something to worry about right now. You're going to be fine."
He snuggled against me, his body shaking in sobs while I searched for words to make him feel better. I thought about God, but what could I say other than I hope? I thought about nature and the cycle of life, but how does that help a six-year-old trying to understand mortality? I said nothing, hugging him tight until he got into the car, sniffling and sobbing still.
He's been emotional all week. A little clingier. A little quieter. He cried when Chad left the Family Lunch at school. He cried when I told him I had to work. He begged me not to go to work, to stay home with him.
Tonight, while putting on pajamas, he asked me what he should do in case of fire. It's something we've talked about before. I went over the plans and told him he was very smart and he would be fine, but it's unlikely anything would happen.
He was quiet and then started sobbing. "I miss Maggie Dog. She'd protect me."
I reached for him and pulled him into my lap, ignoring how his weight made my legs ache. "Maggie Dog is watching over you," I whispered into his hair.
"But she's not really here and she can't stop someone from murdering us," he gasped. "I want Daddy!"
I pulled away. "What are you talking about?"
"There are people who murder people," he sobbed.
"Where did you hear that?" I asked more sharply than I'd intended.
"On the news. At Boppa and Gee's. The news said there were a lot of murders in America by people with guns. And sometimes the murderers killed kids."
My heart shattered into a thousand sharp shards. I put my palms on his cheeks and looked into his deep blue eyes. "I will never, ever let anything bad happen to you. Ever," I swore.
"But what if someone breaks into our house?"
I firmed my voice, "I will never let anything bad happen to you. No one will hurt you. I won't let them."
He sniffed and wiped away tears.
"What if they have a gun?"
I raised my brow, "Do you have any idea how scary your mommy can be if someone tried to hurt her babies?"
He smiled a little and nodded. The smile faded. "Why do people kill other people?"
"I don't know, baby. I wish I understood."
"Don't they know," he choked on another sob. "Don't they know that it hurts kids' hearts when they kill people?"
I shook my head and struggled for an answer. "All I know is that I don't know a single bad person. Not a single one. But I know so many good people, more people than I can even name. That makes me think that even though bad things happen, there is far more good."
He thought about it for a minute and nodded. I snuggled him and stroked his hair, hoping my words brought comfort to a small boy. At the same time, I struggled to keep tears from falling down my cheeks.
Because I lied.
There's not a single person I know, who would not die to protect a child. And yet...children are killed. My mind instantly flashed to Newtown, to the gaped toothed smiles of lives cut short and my heart aches with nearly unbearable pain.
I wish I knew what to say to my little love. I wish I had the words to ease his mind.
I wish I didn't need them.