It was my daughter, Meri’s fifth birthday. I was in the kitchen getting some food ready and she came and chattered to me in the kitchen doorway.
As she stood there, I smiled at her. She looked beautiful – tall, leggy and elegant and I had a vision of her standing there in fifteen years’ time looking even taller, leggy and elegant. I filled up with pride and love for her.
“Come here and give your daddy a hug,” I said as I kneeled down and spread my arms open.
She ran into them and I gave her a big kiss. “Don’t grow up too quickly, my darling,” I said. “Promise me you’ll always be daddy’s little girl.”
She nodded talking it in. “I’ll always be your little girl daddy,” she said and she scampered off to play.
Ten minutes later she was back in the kitchen looking worried.
“Daddy,” she said. “I don’t want to grow up.”
I looked confused. “Why?”
“I don’t want to grow up because I don’t want you to die.”
I thought about it for a while. “I’m not planning to die any time soon sweetheart. Daddy’s full of life.”
“But granny’s mummy died.” She was remembering the death of my grandmother just over a year ago.
“But she was very old. She was 94 years old. She had lived a really good, long life. If daddy lives to be 94 do you know how old you will be?”
She shook her head.
“Fifty five! That’s even older than I am now. So don’t worry, daddy isn’t going to die any time soon.”
“Why do people die?” she asked.
Now, I may be a father but I’m not sure about my credentials as an existential philosopher. “Because if people didn’t die there wouldn’t be new people and new life in the world. It’s how the world changes and moves forward.”
She thought about this for a while and looked at me quizzically. I could tell she wasn’t quite satisfied with this answer but after a few moments clearly decided that it would have to do for now and scuttled off to resume her games.
I pondered as she went off: I suspect she’s going to spend the rest of her life thinking about that one. The rest of us do.
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