It might have started with the zombies.
Yesterday afternoon, the Bean and I were talking about this and that while working on her homework, and the conversation turned to zombies and ghosts. She asked me if I'd ever seen a ghost, which led to another conversation - one that I'll save here for another time, perhaps.
Then she asked me why I thought ghosts were here at all - this led to another series of topics involving ghosts vs spirits vs angels, empathy, reincarnation, and, well, death. This is a tricky conversation to have with a 9 year old, let's be honest. But the Bean has always been very sensitive to the concept of death - it's been kind of surrounding her since she was very young - with Lizz's parents and uncle Stan having passed away, it's just become a sort of thing present in the background ever since she was born. But also, it has really impacted her in general.
I made a kind of breakthrough, I think, in that we were able to address the concerns of life and death and life beyond in a way that didn't involve religious considerations, but still embraced the idea of faith and belief. Those are things that I had feared forever tainted by my exposure to religious indoctrination, and it was liberating to see that they were really only as inextricably bound as I allowed them to be.
I was able to tell Jillie what I believed, and it gave her something to consider - something that she realized she also thought was a good thing to believe in. We even talked about the scientific principle about the conservation of matter and energy; about how something can never be destroyed nor created, but can only be converted and processed. It gave her something to wrap the unwrappable in, and gave her a toehold to believing in the immortality of the human soul.
Belief really is a tricky thing. It's even stranger to think of how much it's been a part of my life, but, stripping away all the extra trappings of it all and leaving it in its primal, simplest state.... it's a very beautiful thing.
Jillie also made a comment that has stuck with me. She said "sometimes I wonder if I'm just dreaming or if this is real. Or if my dreams are real."
Nine years old, facing an existential quandary? Is that a symptom of bad parenting? Hrm.
It made me think a lot, as well, about my expectations for development with my characters in the Morrow Stone's sequel. I'm over halfway through the first draft at this point, and I've noticed little perceptions coming out in Rom and Kari, as well as Cousins, as they've learned more about who they are and about the world in which they live. The concepts of life and death have been radically altered, and it won't be the last time they have to face the transition of the two states of reality.
It's funny how life imitates reality, really; how sometimes our own characters have lessons to teach us - even those of us who pretend to be the gods of their destiny.