The topic of death has been prevalent at our house lately. We're fortunate enough to have not had any recent deaths (at least ones the girls are aware of) in our immediate circle of family and friends, but it's still a topic that Claire brings up at least three times a day.
After our dog Izzy died, we talked at length (or as much at length as a 3 year-old mind will allow) about what it meant to die. Of course they didn't really understand, but as the months have passed and they have repeatedly asked to go see her -- I think they are at the very beginning of understanding.
Grace has no interest in the topic except to occasionally play dead while acting out some dramatic scene.
Claire, on the other hand — the much more serious of my two girls — has many concerns about her death, my death, her great grandparents' deaths and most random dogs' death.
She asks how I would feel if she died. She has demanded that I never die. She worries that her cats will die and what will happen after they do. Just this morning, she asked if all her class friends were going to die.
I haven't hid the truth from her - or at least not much. I told her that everything and everyone dies eventually, but it isn't something to worry about for now because it will be a long, long time before it happens. I can only hope and hope and hope that is the case.
A day will come when they will have to understand death in a much more real, less philosophical way. Maybe all of this discussion will help. One can only hope.