Life & Death as Explained to a Five Year Old
I write this in anticipation of being asked by a five-year-old boy about the death of my cat, Bonker. Bonker lived 16 and 3/4 years. In cat years he lived 117 years. My five-year-old friend never met Bonker, but saw pictures of him and often asked about him. Bonker died lying next to me the other day. I have been very sad since that morning. I will miss him for the rest of my life. He, however, will not miss me. He has moved on. Tomorrow, I will babysit my friend and expect to be asked about Bonker. His mother has given me permission to do my best to explain what happened to Bonker. Here’s my best explanation for a five-year-old.
My five-year-old friend has a love affair with trains. Knowing this helps me find the words he might understand.
Where did Bonker go? I could give the easy non-answer, “he went to Heaven.” But where is Heaven, and what is it like? I do not know. My friend has come to expect answers of me. So.....
Imagine that the whole, wide world is like a big train. You’ve been inside of a train. Do you remember what it looks like, what it feels like? We don’t drive this train. Who does drive a train? The conductor, of course. But who is the conductor? Some people call the conductor God. Other people call the conductor Allah or Jesus or Buddha or Shiva or Nature. Everyone is correct no matter what they call the conductor. Everyone believes something different, and everyone is correct because everyone’s belief makes him or her feel better in some way, helps him or her to make sense of life and death. So, for this Earth-sized train, the conductor also builds the train tracks. We cannot see where this train is going. It is too big, and we cannot get far enough away to see it. Like this, hold up this Thomas train to your face, right up next to your eyes. What do you see? If you pull it away from your face slowly, you will begin to see. Now, imagine that inside that huge train are a million, bizillion, gazillion, google of things – people, animals, birds, bugs, lizards, frogs, snakes, even trees, bushes, flowers and grass – each with its own tiny, little train, our bodies. Some of these trains are bigger than others, and not one of them is more important than any other. And, just as in the big, Earth train, teeming with life inside with all of those teeny, tiny little trains, so our bodies are teeming with life, with energy-filled cells, the energy that makes us alive. Some people call that a soul, higher self, Source. Now back to the train. You are the conductor of your own little train, AND you build the tracks on which your train travels inside that humongous Earth train. Each and every living thing on this Earth train builds its own track. And each track travels from one station to another. That is what we call life. When a living thing comes to the end of his or her or its track, the energy inside of that tiny, little train jumps that track, leaving behind the tiny, little train.
I believe (because it is what makes ME feel better) that the energy that jumped the track goes into what is like a train station waiting room. There, we think, if we can, about what we learned while our little train was running on our tracks and wonder about what else we can learn.
So, I think Bonker went to a place that is like a train station waiting room and will someday build a new tiny, little train and new tracks to learn new things and to give joy to more people and other living things.
Does this make sense to you?
“Nah, I just wanted to know where you put his little train.”