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August 14, 2013 5:11 AM   Subscribe

Explaining death to a four-year-old through Doctor Who
posted by zarq (65 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Four years old is way too young for Dr. Who. The poor kid will have nightmares. The headless monks? Daleks? Cybermen? The Silence?!

That said, four years old is plenty old to start learning about death, though from my understanding they don't grasp the permanence of it until they get a bit older.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:15 AM on August 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


That was lovely. And now I'm all gross and teary.
posted by you must supply a verb at 6:16 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really liked the way of thinking about it embodied in this paraphrase, where there's a balance between remembrance and focus on the now: The people we love are never completely gone. We can see them if we want to. And that's the point, really. We have to really want to, to bring them back in front of our eyes. The rest of the time they... they sleep in our minds and we forget. I kind of wish that someone had talked to me this way when I was a kid and first came face-to-face with these issues.


also: thinks that Final Fantasy VI was a lackluster entry in the franchise
WHAT

posted by Kosh at 6:54 AM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Kosh: The people we love are never completely gone. We can see them if we want to. And that's the point, really. We have to really want to, to bring them back in front of our eyes. The rest of the time they... they sleep in our minds and we forget.

My father passed away last month, and as someone with no belief in an afterlife, this sort of "memorial immortality" has been really important to helping me deal with losing him. Not only is he there in my explicit memories, but he is there, "sleeping in my mind" all the time, because he helped make me the man I am today, and that gets passed on to my daughter and so on and so on. Even when my descendants have no first-hand memories of him, and maybe don't even remember his name, some diluted aspect of his essential humanity will be in them. Thanks for posting this, zarq.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:24 AM on August 14, 2013 [27 favorites]


my wife thinks that Final Fantasy VI was a lackluster entry in the franchise.

WHAT THE FUCK
posted by Greg Nog at 7:31 AM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I thought the Dr.Who death model first involved everyone running manically down corridors screaming about how everyone is going to die?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:23 AM on August 14, 2013


they don't grasp the permanence of it until they get a bit older.

Last week I was looking across Lake Ontario and it struck me that I will never, ever see my father again.

He's been gone for over 20 years. And I still have trouble grasping that fact.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:26 AM on August 14, 2013 [17 favorites]


I guess Dr. Who is a better venue for this talk than any of the Final Fantasy games or most anime. "What happens when we die?" "It's like the finale of Evangelion; nobody knows for sure."
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:31 AM on August 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Death explained by a person who believes in both heaven and reincarnation. Ok then, I'm sure that's very clear.

Sorry, but whimsical tales about what you wish death was like is not an explanation, and it's not really going to help someone deal with that when they really need to.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:41 AM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Rock Steady, I'm so very sorry for your loss.

I lost my father in 1993. October will mark 20 years. Last month my son asked why he didn't have two grandfathers when he has two grandmothers. So I explained. He took it well. But I know he and my daughter will revisit it as they get older and better understand death.

As a father, I often wish I could still ask him questions about raising children. But I also like the idea of the essential form of his existence being passed down from generation to generation. A quiet legacy.
posted by zarq at 8:46 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


“There is so little to remember of anyone—an anecdote, a conversation at a table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long.”
--Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 8:46 AM on August 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Sorry, but whimsical tales about what you wish death was like is not an explanation, and it's not really going to help someone deal with that when they really need to.

Whimsical tales help a lot. It's part of the reason they exist. Nearly everyone lies to themselves some time, and as long as it's not hurting anyone else...
posted by lup badik at 8:48 AM on August 14, 2013


Whimsical tales help a lot.

Ok, maybe they help some people. I still wouldn't call them an "explanation", though. Especially if they combine heaven, reincarnation, and Doctor Who. There is no way that can end up with someone feeling clearer on the subject than when they started.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:52 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tylerkaraszewski > Sorry, but whimsical tales about what you wish death was like is not an explanation, and it's not really going to help someone deal with that when they really need to.

Are you a parent? Until six months ago, I wasn't. Then I became one, and let's just say that the cliche about your worldview completely going topsy-turvy has more than a kernel of truth to it. I might have agreed with you six months ago, but now when I look at my beautiful baby boy, I just can't.

The reality is that we have a very good idea of what death is like, but ultimately, there is still that 1% left undiscovered. Even people who have had near death experiences have reported wildly varying descriptions of what it was like. Even if death is a purely clinical episode -- one moment, we're alive and one moment we're not -- it's the stories and "whimsical tales" that give it meaning.

And that's what I'll be faced with when my baby boy looks at me one day and asks why his auntie, uncle, bubbe, or grandpa aren't there to make him giggle. How do you explain something so unexplainable? You do the best you can. If that means talking about regeneration, heaven, or "starstuff" (like Carl Sagan), then so be it. Part of what makes life worth living is figuring how to deal with and understand mortality.

-----------------------

All that said ...

WHAT THE BLOODY FREAKING HELL IS HE THINKING ALLOWING A 5-YEAR OLD TO WATCH DOCTOR WHO????

I say that with a smile on my face, but good grief. Forget NuWho. Go back to Old School Who, which I didn't start watching until I was 11. "Pyramids of Mars" would have frightened the royal bejeesus out of me if I had seen it at 5.
posted by zooropa at 8:55 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess Dr. Who is a better venue for this talk than any of the Final Fantasy games or most anime. "What happens when we die?" "It's like the finale of Evangelion; nobody knows for sure."

For Final Fantasy, that answer would be "You come back as a 'surprise' at the next plot point. Unless you're Tellah or Aeris. Other than that death is wholly impermanent, even transitory."
posted by JHarris at 8:57 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


JHarris > Are you a parent? Until six months ago, I wasn't. Then I became one, and let's just say that the cliche about your worldview completely going topsy-turvy has more than a kernel of truth to it. I might have agreed with you six months ago, but now when I look at my beautiful baby boy, I just can't.

My daughter's mother (my wife) died of cancer when she was 15-months-old (she will turn two next week). Guess how much stories about heaven and reincarnation and whatever other bullshit have helped me raise her since then?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:03 AM on August 14, 2013


Death explained by a person who believes in both heaven and reincarnation. Ok then, I'm sure that's very clear.

The author does not say he believes in heaven. He says he has never been to church. Sometimes, you tell your children things you do not believe, because it is the best thing you can figure out to do.
posted by Quonab at 9:05 AM on August 14, 2013


> Sorry, but whimsical tales about what you wish death was like is not an explanation, and it's not really going to help someone deal with that when they really need to.

The background in scientific principles and analytic processes to comprehend death in a mature, rational way requires a hell of a lot more education and experience than a five year old will have.

Storytelling and metaphor are the only tools in your arsenal at that particular point in time. On the upside, there ought to be a few decades available to amend the initial message, if your intentions are good.
posted by ardgedee at 9:07 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


tylerkaraszewski: "There is no way that can end up with someone feeling clearer on the subject than when they started."

As a parent, I can say that for me at least, sometimes perfect clarity isn't a priority. My five-year old kids believe that a tooth fairy comes in the middle of the night and exchanges their teeth for money. The stories we tell to children often serve a purpose. We make small, personal events out of their milestones to help them mark and celebrate their passage from early to late childhood and then to adulthood.

Since she (apparently) hasn't lost a parent or a sibling, the little girl in the article is not really going to have anything more than a very superficial understanding of what death is. Turning the concept into something that she has previously seen and can relate to on her level will be helpful to her. And hopefully keep her from being too disturbed by it.

On preview: tylerkaraszewski I'm sorry for your loss as well. I would likely handle the situation differently if my kids had lost a parent or sibling and needed to understand death with more focus than they do now.

zooropa: "You do the best you can."

Very true. This conversation happened in May:

My son: "Daddy, you're my daddy. And my sister's daddy. And Mommy's daddy is Zaide."
Me: "Yes."
My son: "Where's your daddy?"
Me: "Well... he passed away."
My son: "He died?"
Me: "Yes."
My daughter: "Who killed him?"
Me: "What!? No one killed him. He just died. He was sick for a very long time and then he passed away."
My daughter "Oh. Were you sad?"
Me: "Yes."
My son: "Do you miss him?"
Me: "Sometimes. But I have the two of you munchkins in my life so I'm always very busy and very happy."
̨My daughter: "When did he die?"
Me: "1993. 20 years ago."
My daughter: "That's a really long time ago."
My son: "A really, really long time."
My daughter: "We weren't even born yet."
Me: "That's right."
My son: "So that's why you don't have a Daddy anymore?"
Me: "Yep."

I had been dreading the conversation but it was easier than I expected. I know it's not the last time the topic will come up.
posted by zarq at 9:07 AM on August 14, 2013 [14 favorites]


Quonab > The author does not say he believes in heaven.

Explain this quote:

She knows dead people go to Heaven, and that her Aunt Kat watches out for her
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:09 AM on August 14, 2013


Explain this quote:

She knows dead people go to Heaven, and that her Aunt Kat watches out for her


My two-year-old knows that Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader and is Luke's father. Yet I, an adult, realize that's not actually a true story.
posted by The World Famous at 9:11 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"You know what's important?" I asked her? She shook her head. "To be very brave, and to be very kind..."

"Like The Doctor," she whispered.
How did all this goddamn dust get in here?
posted by Etrigan at 9:14 AM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


She knows dead people go to Heaven, and that her Aunt Kat watches out for her

The girl in the article goes to church, so presumably there is someone in her life who believes in Heaven, but it may not be the Dad. I know the afterlife is not a comforting notion for you and your family, but you've got to see that it can be really comforting to a lot of people, including people who, if you press them on the matter, don't literally believe in the soul's rebirth in Heaven. It's just a helpful fiction.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:15 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


My two-year-old knows that Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader and is Luke's father. Yet I, an adult, realize that's not actually a true story.

Ok, fine. For the purposes of this discussion what you tell your children you believe might as well be equated with what you actually believe, because that's what your children will think. If he tells her daughter she believes in heaven and guardian angels and reincarnation, then from a practical perspective as it relates to explaining things to children, that's what he believes.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:15 AM on August 14, 2013


zarq > In my completely unprofessional opinion, you handled it brilliantly. I only hope I do just as well when the time comes for me to do the same.
posted by zooropa at 9:16 AM on August 14, 2013


zooropa, thanks. I got lucky, I think. They asked at a quiet moment before bed, and accepted the answers without much fuss.

Although I must admit "Who killed him?" threw me for a loop. ;)
posted by zarq at 9:20 AM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


heaven (or not) is a certainty we need to die first to figure out. But one thing I'm pretty clear on is that dead do continue to live through us. It's as simple as getting into annoying argument with my brother and suddenly realizing, the look of frustration he just gave me is exactly the same thing I used to get from my dad. The ole man may have been gone for almost a decade, but his influence still lives, and not just in some abstract poetic way.

How much of him do people see/feel in me in my day to day comings, goings, interactions?

When we live, we release huge amounts of energy into the world, just as the energy of those who have preceded us passes through us in all manner of strange and subtle ways.

And so on.

I'm not arguing for some higher power here, or invisible reality, just an acceptance of what's playing out day to day.
posted by philip-random at 9:22 AM on August 14, 2013


So my own personal view as an atheist is that when you die, you're dead, and that's it. You "live on" only in the memory of others and the impact you made on the world. You don't watch over people from heaven, or come back in a new body, or hang out in the sky with god, or whatever. I get no comfort from those stories because I know them to be fiction.

I know that some people *do* get comfort from those stories, and conceded as much in my second post in this thread. I don't think that this is so much an inherent property of the stories as it is the expectation that people build around the stories over the course of decades. This is to say I don't think the death of a loved one is harder on an atheist than it is on a religious person because of the lack of the afterlife narrative. It probably *would* be harder on a religious person to lose a loved one and simultaneously lose their faith in an afterlife, as it's not only a loss of a friend, but of a familiar worldview.

The stories help for people that already believe them. They don't help just for story's sake. Go ahead. Tell your young child that their pet or aunt or whoever is just gone. They'll actually take it better than you think. In the absence of any preconception, this story works just as well as one about heaven.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:26 AM on August 14, 2013


Although I must admit "Who killed him?" threw me for a loop. ;)

Maybe she knows something you don't. You might have a mini Jessica Fletcher on you hands...
posted by Rock Steady at 9:26 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Although I must admit "Who killed him?" threw me for a loop.

I pictured her tightening her grip around her sword hilt as she asked that.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:28 AM on August 14, 2013 [16 favorites]


The stories help for people that already believe them. They don't help just for story's sake.

Totally. I think that's why relating it to Doctor Who was so helpful for this girl -- the Doctor is already part of her personal mythos.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:29 AM on August 14, 2013


Semi-relatedly - does anyone know when they found the Hartnell / Troughton regeneration footage? I remember it being totally lost for many years; it must have been found in the last decade or so, if I'm not hallucinating.
posted by koeselitz at 9:29 AM on August 14, 2013


There was a Buddhist priest who was asked what happens when we die.

"I don't know." He admitted.
"But you are a priest!"
"But not a dead priest."

That said, some Buddhists believe in both a heaven and reincarnation, so that's not as crazy an idea as it might seem to Christians.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:30 AM on August 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


Rock Steady: " Maybe she knows something you don't. You might have a mini Jessica Fletcher on you hands..."

Greg Nog: "I pictured her tightening her grip around her sword hilt as she asked that."

Ha! Both would be totally in character for her :D
posted by zarq at 9:35 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If he tells her daughter she believes in heaven and guardian angels and reincarnation, then from a practical perspective as it relates to explaining things to children, that's what he believes.

Did you even read the article? He specifically doesn't tell his daughter about reincarnation. That's the whole 'Dr. Who' portion, really the central theme of the thing. You're making what he has written much more one-dimensional than it actually is.
posted by Quonab at 9:38 AM on August 14, 2013


Did you even read the article?

Sorry, I guess I got confused somewhere in the middle of him not going to church, but sending his daughter there, and him not believing in heaven but telling his daughter that people go there when they die, and him believing in reincarnation, but him telling his daughter that *doesn't* happen and that people only live on in our memories.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:46 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


So my own personal view as an atheist is that when you die, you're dead, and that's it. You "live on" only in the memory of others and the impact you made on the world.

Which is pretty much exactly what the guy writing this article told his daughter. His phrasing of which was quoted twice before you posted.

(And which was very nicely done, I think. Good for him.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:47 AM on August 14, 2013


I had been dreading the conversation but it was easier than I expected. I know it's not the last time the topic will come up.

Yeah. My daughter is 4 (and a half) and we've talked about death, as she has asked me directly "When will I die?" (several times /eponysterical) but not really in a deep way, and she is more than ready for that conversation.

So thanks for this version. Any and all perspectives are useful.

The funniest thing I remember from our conversations so far was explaining that most people live nice, long lives, but some unlucky people die earlier from illness or accidents.

Then I asked her if what she thought our greatest risk of death by accident was ...

Her response: Bow and arrows?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:49 AM on August 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Which is pretty much exactly what the guy writing this article told his daughter.

But he also said that she believes in heaven and guardian angels (and I guess he doesn't?) and that he believes in reincarnation (but doesn't share this with his daughter?). And she goes to church but he doesn't. How is that not confusing? The article presents itself as an explanation but taken as a whole it's the least cohesive view of death I think I've ever seen.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:51 AM on August 14, 2013


tylerkaraszewski-- I'm with you. I can see how someone who has a coherent view of death and afterlife, whatever that view may be, would find meaning in sharing that view in a creative way with a child. But this guy doesn't seem to believe anything in particular, except reincarnation, which he doesn't talk to his daughter about it. It's a weird little story about passing on vague sentiment to a kid, and to title it "explains death" to anyone set me up with a whole different expectation. I understand that few people have spent as much time hashing out their view of death as I have, and that's fine. I just get annoyed when they talk about it as though they have something useful to say.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:59 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a reason the article isn't called "a grand unifying explanation of my views on death, together with the sum total of my daughter's religious and pop-culture upbringing." It's presented as how he explains to the kid that dead people are gone, and he did that well.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:00 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rise Again
posted by islander at 10:07 AM on August 14, 2013


Sometimes, you tell your children things you do not believe, because it is the best thing you can figure out to do.

One of my primary goals as a parent (of an almost five year old) is to never ever do that.

So far it's worked out fine.

We had the death conversation pretty much as soon as he was able to talk, because he asked. We've revisited the question a few times over the years; each time he wants a little more detail, so I give him what he asks for. When it comes to the unknowns or the "some people believe this, some people believe that, nobody knows for sure" I tell him that too. Sometimes he wants to know what I believe, so I answer him.

Kids are pretty good at regulating their own informational intake; when it starts to get to be too much they change the subject (or, if it's my kid, they say "Daddy, you're overexplaining again.")

I think simple, straightforward answers are a heck of a lot less confusing to children than sugarcoated glurge like what this guy's feeding his daughter. (I mean, seriously, "they sleep in our minds?" Metaphor is a lot more confusing to four-year-olds than death is, guy.)
posted by ook at 10:09 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


My boss lost her father-in-law a little while back. Apparently on the way to the funeral, she overheard her 4 year old daughter saying to a younger sister:

"no, you see, oppa is dead, which means he can't move or talk or see anymore. Now we have to wait in case he's a zombie. But he probably won't be."

Her parents frankly saw no reason to correct any of this...
posted by like_a_friend at 10:12 AM on August 14, 2013 [16 favorites]


I think simple, straightforward answers are a heck of a lot less confusing to children than sugarcoated glurge like what this guy's feeding his daughter.

We don't give our kids credit for being as smart as they are. They may not have as wide of a knowledge base to draw from as we do, but they're good at figuring things out and when we feed them inconsistent stories, they get confused, or end up with wrong ideas because it's the only way they can rectify the different things we've told them.

I can remember several things that people told me as a kid because they thought it'd make my life easier or more comfortable when it turns out they just put me on the wrong track. Mostly not about issues like death (I never remember having any strange views on that subject), but I remember things like my first grade teacher telling me that "for" the preposition and "four" the numeral were spelled the same way (because I specifically asked) because she thought it would make things easier for me, and so I spelled "four" wrong for years, thinking my teacher wouldn't lie to me. Or my dad, who didn't want to tell me "no you can't have a Nintendo", said instead "You can have a Nintendo if you buy it with your own money". Guess how I felt when I had saved all my Christmas and birthday and allowance money for months and then found a kid at school who could sell me his used one, but my dad said he didn't want me to get one? And I could probably go on for a while about Jesus, but I won't.

Be very careful if you're going to lie to your kids, because it's pretty likely to hurt more than it helps.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:20 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pater Aletheias: " It's a weird little story about passing on vague sentiment to a kid, "

This is from the second page of the article (emphasis mine):
You know what's important?" I asked her? She shook her head. "To be very brave, and to be very kind..."

"Like The Doctor," she whispered.

"Yes, like The Doctor, and this is why. People die. Even amazing people. Even people we love. We have to care for them, love them, save them if we can so that we can hold onto them while they're here... because one day they won't be. That's our job, sweetheart. We have to try and make things better if we can."

"But what happens when, when they're gone?" she asked me, voice barely audible. I was about to repeat that I didn't know, but then I remembered something the Second Doctor had said in "Tomb of the Cybermen," and paraphrased.

"The people we love are never completely gone. We can see them if we want to. And that's the point, really. We have to really want to, to bring them back in front of our eyes. The rest of the time they... they sleep in our minds and we forget. You'll find there's so much else to think about. To remember. Our lives are different to anybody else's. That's the exciting thing that nobody in the universe can do what we're doing. That's why I come here. To bring her back in front of my eyes."
Out of curiosity, what is he saying here that strikes you as problematic?
posted by zarq at 10:24 AM on August 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am surprised, although I know I shouldn't be, at how many of us are dealing with losing our parents. It's been almost 16 years for me since my father passed (I should say died, shouldn't I? I just hate seeing it written down.) and I'm still feeling it practically every day.

I don't have a religious belief, so I don't have the comfort of "knowing" I'll see him again, but I do understand the desire to develop such a belief system. Ironically, it is just this desire that solidified my non-belief after he died. I wanted so very much to believe that this wasn't the end, that I could easily see why mankind developed stories of an afterlife.

One of my uncles died when his daughter was very young (I think she was 5). I remember her asking where her father was. My aunt took a glass of water and stirred in a spoonful of sugar. Once it had dissolved, she asked her daughter where the sugar was. My cousin said that it was gone. My aunt had her taste the water, showing her that the sugar was still there. "That's like daddy now, sweetheart," she said. "He's still here, in our hearts and in our memories, but we can't see him anymore." I thought it was a reasonable explanation for a 5 year old.

The thing that comforts me now, just a little, is that half of me comes from my father. I am him, in a way, both genetically and by his teaching me for the first 32 years of my life. My love of science fiction is him, and my engineering career, and my musical talent. That's where I taste the sugar water - in me.
posted by blurker at 10:57 AM on August 14, 2013 [14 favorites]


But he also said that she believes in heaven and guardian angels (and I guess he doesn't?) and that he believes in reincarnation (but doesn't share this with his daughter?). And she goes to church but he doesn't. How is that not confusing?

It may be confusing, but it strikes me as perfectly normal. My daughter believes a number of things I don't believe, and she knows I don't believe them. Some of them she gets from her mother, some from her grandparents, heck she probably gets some from kids at school or Adventure Time, for all I know. And, yes, kids end up with wrong ideas all the time, but that's part of growing up, I think. Figuring out how to combine all the disparate things that adults have told you over the years. Weighing Daddy's disbelief against Mom's faith, realizing that teachers can lie to you, that parents aren't always right. Like you say, kids are smart -- they figure out confusing stuff every day.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:25 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Someone quoted above:
JHarris > Are you a parent? Until six months ago, I wasn't.

Wait, what? I'm still not. I think someone misattributed that to me.
posted by JHarris at 11:52 AM on August 14, 2013


Actually, this has secretly been a Maury Povich episode, and have we got some big news for you!
posted by cortex at 11:54 AM on August 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wait, what? I'm still not. I think someone misattributed that to me.

Oops, that should have been "zooropa".
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:20 PM on August 14, 2013


The people we love are never completely gone.

The following is possibly not appropriate for a 4-year-old (YMMV), but it's something I think about from time to time in preparation of the inevitable questions from my own kids:

The people we love now won't be the same people tomorrow. Tomorrow you'll be different too, the next iteration of yourself. Every day we're alive the feature list grows longer: sometimes we fix bugs, sometimes we make them. Some days will feel like total failures and other days we'll feel like the best version of ourselves.

This happens to everyone, no exceptions.

Then one day you stop. No more updates, no more iterations. Could be a bullet that stops you, or a train, or cancer, or just plain old age. More often than not we have no idea when this will happen to us, or to the people we love. So it goes.

(this next part is harder)

Lots of people say they know what happens after we die. Maybe they do? I don't know. It doesn't really matter what they say. What matters is what you think, and even more importantly, what you do with the time you have.

And what will you do when someone you love dies? Because it will happen. I can't tell you what to do, but I can tell what I did when my grandpa died: I remembered him. Sometimes when I'm a bit sad I pull out a memory of him and think about it for awhile, I enjoy its warmth and familiarity. And then I put it back and move forward because I'm still alive and, as far as I know, I still have a lot of iterations left.

*and then maybe we'd listen to some Iris DeMent together*
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:37 PM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


tylerkaraszewski, JHarris > Yikes! Sorry about the confusion. I didn't notice the misattribution earlier.

tylerkaraszewski > I can't imagine what that must have been like for you and your kid. I admire you for your perseverance and sharing your thoughts. I'm not entirely sure I'd be able to do either.
posted by zooropa at 12:58 PM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


She's less clear on Patrick Troughton, and was devastated when I told her that he would not be the new Doctor

This actually brought a tear to my cynical old eye. I knew Patrick Troughton was my favourite Doctor, but I didn't know I mourned him till now.
posted by Segundus at 1:14 PM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


tylerkaraszewski: "Death explained by a person who believes in both heaven and reincarnation. Ok then, I'm sure that's very clear.

Sorry, but whimsical tales about what you wish death was like is not an explanation, and it's not really going to help someone deal with that when they really need to.
"

"My parents died years ago. I was very close to them. I still miss them terribly. I know I always will. I long to believe that their essence, their personalities, what I loved so much about them, are - really and truly - still in existence somewhere. […] Plainly, there’s something within me that’s ready to believe in life after death. And it’s not the least bit interested in whether there’s any sober evidence for it. So I don’t guffaw at the woman who visits her husband’s grave and chats him up every now and then, maybe on the anniversary of his death. It’s not hard to understand. And if I have difficulties with the ontological status of who she’s talking to, that’s all right. That’s not what this is about. This is about humans being human.” - Carl Sagan on why sometimes it’s good to temporarily forgo your beliefs in order to respect someone else’s
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:51 PM on August 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


She knows dead people go to Heaven (More complicated after-life discussions can wait until later), and that her Aunt Kat watches out for her.

tylerkaraszewski, when you quoted this line, you omitted the parenthetical aside.

I found the article very moving. Death is cruel and random and hard to accept and confusing as hell. Some people want this guy to have a just-the-cold-hard-facts talk with his daughter about death, but your cold, hard facts about death may not be the same as his. He believes in reincarnation, and you can't prove he's wrong. For reasons of his own, he's not getting into reincarnation with his kid, yet. But I'm sure he will.

I think the Doctor's regenerations say a lot more about life than they do about death. Doleful Creature put it pretty well, up there:


The people we love now won't be the same people tomorrow. Tomorrow you'll be different too, the next iteration of yourself.


While the Doctor has remained the same man through all of his regenerations... he also hasn't. Life changes us, like it or not. Sometimes life turns you into a glamorous bohemian with a long floppy scarf, sometimes it turns you into a callow youth with a stalk of celery on your lapel. You can never predict it, and you just have to get on with it and do your best.

I don't think it's our place to say if his kid can watch Doctor Who or not. That's between them. Some kids would be terrified, some kids would love it. His kid loves it, so it seems to be working out pretty well for them.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:18 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I knew Patrick Troughton was my favourite Doctor, but I didn't know I mourned him till now.

I like him a great deal too. It is a real shame that so many Troughton serials are incomplete or entirely missing.
posted by JHarris at 4:17 PM on August 14, 2013


So I just did the maths. My first Doctor Who was Destiny of the Daleks. I remember my Dad stopping me running to the kitchen (to hide) as the music started and sat me on the sofa to watch episode one.

4 years. 9 months. 8 days. From birth to first Dalek cliffhanger.

I think I turned out okay...

(Patrick Troughton ++ )
posted by ewan at 4:31 PM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


The background in scientific principles and analytic processes to comprehend death in a mature, rational way requires a hell of a lot more education and experience than a five year old will have.

Speak for yourself. When I was 5, my parents gave me a book about space. I was nuts about the space program. But I read this book and that night, I could not get to sleep, I cried inconsolably. My mom asked me what was wrong. I told her that the Sun would burn out in 50 billion years and everyone would die and the Earth would be destroyed. I don't remember what she said, but I can imagine her difficulty in giving a plausible reason to a 5 year old why this wouldn't matter, because we'd already be dead long before then. And that is how kids understand death, it is an end to everything in the universe.

50 years later, I held my mother's hand during her dying breath. For her, it makes no difference whether she is gone, or the entire universe is gone. It has the same effect. And it will be the same for me, the same way as I imagined it as a child: the universe will be destroyed in an instant.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:21 PM on August 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


and then what happens?
posted by philip-random at 7:47 PM on August 14, 2013


zooropa: " WHAT THE BLOODY FREAKING HELL IS HE THINKING ALLOWING A 5-YEAR OLD TO WATCH DOCTOR WHO????"

Weeping Angel Buddy System:
"I watched blond curls bob behind marble monuments and heard her laugh when birds scattered from her approach. As she was taught, she kept one eye always on the cemetery's solitary stone angel lest it move."
:D
posted by zarq at 8:46 PM on August 14, 2013


Conchis led me a little way to a deep fissure between two boulders, and there suspended a piece of white cloth on the end of a line. I hung like a bird in the water overhead, watching for the octopus he was trying to entice. Soon a sinuous tentacle slipped out and groped the bait, then other swift tentacles, and he began skilfully to coax the octopus up. I had tried this myself and knew it was not nearly as simple as the village boys made it seem. The octopus came reluctantly but inevitably, slow-whirling, flesh of drowned sailors, its suckered arms stretching, reaching, searching. Conchis suddenly gaffed it into the boat, slashed its sac with a knife, turned it inside out in a moment. I levered myself aboard.

"I have caught a thousand in this place. Tonight another will move into that same hole. And let himself be caught as easily."

"Poor thing"

"You notice reality is not necessary. Even the octopus prefers the ideal."

A piece of old white sheeting, from which he had torn his 'bait', lay beside him. I remembered it was Sunday morning; the time for sermons and parables. He looked up from the puddle of sepia.

"Well, how do you like the world below?"

"Fantastic. Like a dream."

"Like humanity. But in the vocabulary of millions of years ago." He threw the octopus under the thwart. "Do you think that has a life after death?"

I looked down at the viscid mess, and up to meet his dry smile. The red-and-white skull-cap had tilted slightly. Now he looked like Picasso imitating Ghandi imitating a buccaneer. He let in the clutch lever and we moved forward. I thought of the Marne, of Neuve Chapelle; and shook my head. He nodded, and raised the white sheeting. His even teeth gleamed falsely, vividly in the intense sunlight. Stupidity is lethal, he implied; and look at me, I have survived.


- John Fowles, The Magus.

Admittedly, possibly asking a bit much of a five-year-old, that. :-)
posted by Decani at 6:06 AM on August 15, 2013


Last week I was looking across Lake Ontario and it struck me that I will never, ever see my father again.

Thirty seconds ago I read this post and it struck me that I will never, ever see my mother again.

why did I have to read this at work
posted by Lucinda at 10:37 AM on August 15, 2013


If I may, I will direct your attention to the aforementioned Tomb Of The Cyberman quote (now with YouTube). And also a Babylon 5 quote about how we are all star stuff. It may help. (and to think Tomb was lost for so long. It really is one of the best second Doctors).

Also:
WHAT THE BLOODY FREAKING HELL IS HE THINKING ALLOWING A 5-YEAR OLD TO WATCH DOCTOR WHO????

I was that age. Kids can handle scares. Eventually. What's a few sleepless nights and life-long phobias about, say, giant maggots?
posted by Mezentian at 4:36 AM on August 18, 2013


His blog is a trove of potential Mefi approved FPP booty:
I Tried to Explain Transgender Doom Metal to My Three-Year-Old

And there is, linked from that, a 2013 Gathering of the Juggalos photo spread. (NSFW)
posted by Mezentian at 4:43 AM on August 18, 2013


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