Since my mother's death in October 2008, Olivia has, every few weeks, asked why she died and what happened to her. She didn't know my mother, having only met her twice, but it bothered her, this idea that I used to have a mother but didn't anymore. I've always answered her with a gentle circle-of-life spiel and she is usually content with that, but the other night as I tucked her in and wished her sweet dreams, she said, as though continuing some ongoing conversation, "But Mommy, when are you going to die?"
There just didn't seem to be any good answer to that. I was speechless for a moment, then mumbled something about hoping to live for a very long time. And then I realized what she was asking: When would she not have a mother anymore?
"I will probably be with you until you're a grown-up woman, maybe even older than me, when you have a home and a life that's all your own," I said. And Olivia hugged me and told me she wanted me to stay with her, wanted me to be her mother forever. She held my hands and wouldn't let go.
It was one of the most painful moments I've had as a mother--contemplating death with my baby, my sweet little girl; imagining, in a flash, how hard it will be to leave her--but also one of the most beautiful: I have never felt so important to another person.
Such responsibility, but, my god, such reward.