What Not to Wear When You’re Dead

black-bathrobe.jpgJeffrey watched the Star Wars trilogy at my parents’ house during the Christmas holiday, and the biggest impression that it left on him was the concept of mortality.

“Did Dark Vader die?” he asks. (He insists that it’s “Dark” instead of “Darth.”) “Why did he want Luke to take his helmet off? Why did Luke burn Dark Vader’s costume in the fire? Can’t he just get a new robot body?” Those were the questions he asked the evening after watching Return of the Jedi. He doesn’t talk about it quite so much now, but it still crops up.

Two days ago I was playing “Adios Amigos,” a song from preschool, on the ukulele.

“We are singing this song to say good-bye to Dark Vader,” said Jeffrey, looking solemn as he placed his hands reverently on the uke strings. “We are saying good bye because he’s dying.”

Dark Vader — the most powerful guy in the movie — dies! It’s uncanny. It’s just one more layer of Jeffrey’s innocence, casually ripped away by the George Lucas empire. But, you know, he had to find out about it eventually. It’s not like you can lie about the existence of death, like it’s the Tooth Fairy or something. Or can you?

Today he asked, “Mom, when are you going to die?”

“Not until I’m old and gray,” I say. “Ooooold and gray.” Why do I feel like I’m lying when I say stuff like that? I tell my kid that I’ve got decades left, but who knows? I could be flattened by a bus tomorrow, and —pfft! Mom’s a liar! Knockonwood knockonwood knockonwood, I think.

“Mommy?” Jeffrey asks seriously. “When you die, what color will your robes be?”

Huh? Ohhhh, but then we get it. Just about every picture depicting the afterlife that Jeffrey has seen usually involves lots of people standing around on clouds, wearing spiffy white robes. ‘Cause, you know, having pictures of nude angels isn’t allowed in church. Our church, anyway.

“What color would you like your robe to be?” I ask. Jeffrey thinks for a moment.

“Black,” he says firmly. “Like Dark Vader.”

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