Great House by Nicole Krauss. ISBN: 9780393079982 (Advance Reading Copy - publishes Oct. 12, 2010).
As I mentioned in my previous post, this book is really about moments between people. They are usually moments that are characterized by vulnerability with a touch of both joy and sadness. These are moments that can only be brought to us by living lives in which we know the meaning of loss, and the desire to hold on to what we have now.
Possibly my favorite moment in the book is when one of the narrators confronts his grown child about why he was so hard on him growing up, and why they are still not close. Dov (the child) is a child so different that the father is forced to think about himself and his parenting in a way that Dov's older brother does not. And the paragraph in which the father explains death to the young Dov is one that will probably stick in my mind forever. It contains within in both what the father said, what he felt he should have said, and the hard truths of what it means to live. Here is the simple response to a child's question, "Will I die?"
"Yes. And because, no matter how you suffered deep inside you were still an animal like any other who wants to live, feel the sun, and be free, you said, But I don't want to die."
And it occurred to me that this a bullet I will have dodged by the end of my life. By not having children, I will never have to answer these questions about death to a young child - a being that should have nothing to do with death. If children are an affirmation of our will to live and continue on, then it seems almost fundamentally wrong to let them even become aware of the concept of death. These are supposed to be being removed from death, at the very least within our lifetimes, and for all we know they are destined to live on into the future until the end times. That is why the dying of a child before his or her parent is so devastating, it's a denial of an eternity that once seemed so obtainable and tangible.
Where God provides us with hope, children provide us with proof, that at least in some form we go on. To confirm to a child that, yes, they too will die, must be like a small death to a parent. Knowing that, even though chances are they still have many years to watch their children grow, they too will die and even our tentative links to life after death will fade. But none of this seems to stop us from trying to live on. And I don't think it should.