We stopped in Silver Spring, MD on our way to NY, mainly to stop at the cemetary where Noah's mother is buried. We've been to visit three times since Lila was born. More often than we'd been in the ten years prior.
"This is where Daddy's mommy lives," says Lila as we drive into Mount Lebanon on Adelphi Road. She brings tears to my eyes, and I am amazed she remembers from last year.
All three of us stand by the grave. It's one of the few white headstones in the cemetary. On it, there's a tree with five branches -- one for each child she had -- two strong roots and Noah's father's ring embedded in the trunk. The headstone to the left marks the death of a Gertrude. She died on Noah's birthdate. The one to the right belongs to Martin. He died on Noah's older sister's birthday. Coincidence or no, it's creepy.
"Does Daddy's mommy lie down here?" Lila asks.
"She's underneath the stones," we tell her.
"How does she breathe?"
"She doesn't. You don't breath after you die.
Lila repeats these same questions with slight variations over and over.
At one point, she put her hand on Noah's shoulder and reassures him. "I'm going to get you a new mommy."
"You can't just get a new mommy," he tells her. "Can you just replace your mommy?" he asks.
"No," she replies, and I admit, I am mildly relieved.
Then Noah asks for some time to himself, and we go for a walk around the grounds. Lila does not want separate from Noah. She looks back, keeps him in sight at all times and gets anxious when we pass some bushes that obscure him from view. And of course, there are more questions.
Does Daddy miss his mommy? Do people stick their tongues out when they're dead? Why is Daddy crying? Did Grandma Ruth die too? Followed by a symphony of Whys?
The questions were simple, but the answers are not. Questions humans ask themselves over and over during the course of a lifetime. People have built careers on answering these questions. They are philosophy.
What would you tell her?