I became a widow at the young age of twenty-six. My husband was an environmental scientist who was killed in a small plane crash in the interior of British Columbia that not only took his life but those of the pilot and all three passengers. The year after this devastating event in my life I decided to move back east to my home town of Ottawa which gave me a chance to reconnect with my siblings and their young broods.

One day my 4-year old niece Linda and I had spent a lovely summer’s day together doing all sorts of fun things. As it drew time for her Mom to come pick her up we went and sat out on the front porch to watch for her car coming down the street. It was a warm, sunny day with a light breeze and huge, fluffy clouds suspended in a vividly blue sky.

Apparently out of nowhere the following conversation unfolded:

“Auntie Gwen” said this very unselfconscious child. “Uncle Loran got died, didn’t he?” “Yes”, I replied. “And he went up to heaven, didn’t he?” she then asked. “As far as we know” was the best answer this non-believer could muster. “He was in a crash, wasn’t he?” she continued. “Yes he was” I confirmed. “Well, when are the clouds going to start to rain red?” was her next question in a very puzzled tone. “Why would the clouds rain red?” was my startled response. “Because there’ll be all that blood from the crash up there, won’t there?”

I have to admit that my recollection of the conversation becomes very vague at this point. Largely, I believe, because I was so startled by the connections her young mind had made. I do recall that we continued the conversation to what felt like a natural conclusion to me, while I tried to explain this incredibly complex process called death in a way that would satisfy her curiosity and not terrify her.

It’s been over 30 years since that conversation occurred and I think about it regularly. It taught me so much about how matter of fact a conversation about death can be with a young person. And it also taught me that even when children don’t know all the parties involved (she’d never met my husband), they are constantly trying to make sense of their world within the context that they have for how the world operates. No one had to tell this 4-year old that there would be lots of blood involved in a plane crash; she clearly had made the link between heaven, clouds and rain; and it only made sense to her that blood would inevitably have to wash out from the clouds.

As far as I know that one conversation put the matter to rest for her. Even though we spent a lot of time together for many months before I moved away again, she never raised the topic again. In talking with Linda about this article, she tells me that she has no memory of this conversation but says that it feels to her very much like how she remembers reacting to life when she was a child!

Author's Bio: 

Gwen McCauley - I am a very ordinary human being who lives an extraordinary life full of fulfillment and joy. I know absolutely that if I can create this life for myself anyone else can. Therefore, I coach, create and lead workshop and entice folks to spend time with me on professional development retreats to exotic locales so that they too can discover that a wondrous life is possible for us all. No matter how many challenges, disappointments, disasters or successes you've had to date in your life, the future is yours to craft in whatever way you wish. The big question is: can you move beyond the limits you have set for yourself? I know you can because you are the same as me and I have done it! www.ouicoach.com