|not my picture, but it seemed a good illustration.|
Eden and I were walking home and she happened upon a dead worm on the sidewalk. It was hard and flat. And dead. She picked it up, turning its two dimensions around, trying to figure out why it wasn't the way it was supposed to be, I guess. I didn't wait for her to ask.
"It's dead," I told her.
"We can put it in the shade," she said, since that's what we do with worms when we dig them up. We bury them in our compost pile. It makes for all kinds of small "good" in the world. I've taught her well.
"No, don't touch it. You're going to need to wash your hands. It's dead."
I took her hand to keep walking so she wouldn't stick her dead-worm-toting fingers straight into her mouth. She made some other hopeful sort of suggestion.
"No, it's DEAD," I said, again. "It's not going to come back alive again. Dead things don't come back alive."
"But people come back alive," she said in her matter-of-fact way.
We just finished learning the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. And we talk about Jesus giving us new bodies when these die. And I've made up and taught the kids a song on the verse "All things are possible with God." I guess me saying that dead things don't come back alive sent these recent contradictory snippets running through both our minds. However, it's not generally the way things work. The girl is going to have to know that. But in a way that doesn't cancel out the truth of all those things I've taught her. How is it God works, anyway? I don't really know. What can I say?
"Well, people only come back alive because Jesus makes them."
We kept walking. Eden made another effort: "We could put water on it."
I realized I had two choices. I could proclaim to her that there is never any hope for dead, dried-up things. We could leave the worm there and it would most certainly stay dead. Or we could take the worm back to our yard, stick it in some wet dirt, and let the conversation continue on its own without me having to drill into her the ugly truths about dead worms and dead things in general. I went with Option B.
We went back to the worm. Eden remembered exactly where it was as I was still searching for it. Looking at it, I had to admit that, though it was completely dried up, it wasn't completely hard and flat. It had one little spot on it that looked like it might bend instead of break if you forced the issue.
I let her pick it up again and I carried it home in a discarded McDonald's cup. We put it in the peat moss under our apple tree, poured some water on it, and buried it with a thin layer of the watered ground. Water. Shade. That's all we could do. I put the cup we had used to carry it home upside-down over it to mark the spot so we could check on it later. I didn't want the false hope offered by a bird finding it first or something.
After naptime, I decided to have the first look. I took the cup away and the worm was gone. I dug around and spread out the dirt. Yep. Gone.
What happened to the worm? I guess I can't say for sure. There's always some chance I'm wrong, but I told Eden it crawled away. (Wouldn't you know she was sad about this, crying that she wanted to keep it?)
There are plenty of unpleasant things I'm going to have to teach my kids. Plenty of unpleasant things and downright horrible things I've already had to tell them about the world. But on this day, in this moment with my sweet little girl, she has taught me well.