How Profound Can a 4 Year Old Be?

It sometimes happens that in the midst of a challenging moment, something profound is said or done. I recently had the pleasure/challenge of caring for my 2 grandchildren for 3 weeks. Amy is 6 and Joel is 4. While I could regale you with numerous stories that came from that time together, I will only share one today; because it speaks so profoundly about life.

Joel is a dynamic ball of energy, curiosity and wonder. He is mercurial in nature. We were headed out the door one morning (probably for a coffee/chocolate milk/soy milk break at Starbucks) when Joel emphatically announced that he did not want to go! He did not want to do anything! As he climbed into the car and I was fastening his seat belt, I asked if he would prefer to go back inside and just sit. He replied that “sitting” was “doing” something. I agreed and went onto to list a few other options instead of going and to each Joel replied that my list was all things involving “doing”. I agreed. He then said, with a voice of certainty, “Oh, I get it! If you are alive, you are always doing something. And if you are dead, you are just a bunch of bones in the ground in a graveyard and you don’t eat and your teeth rot!” Honest, that is what he said!

Now that could be just an interesting, entertaining grand-parenting story to tell, but it took place during the time that I was reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. The book explains and encourages the value of being present in all of life – not focusing on the past or the future – authentically “being” in each moment of life. There lies the amazing “aha” that Joel’s statement brought to me.

When my sister, Kristin, was very near her death from malignant melanoma that had metastasized in her lungs and brain, I was present in her home for what would be the last care conference with the hospice caregiver. We were all sitting in the bedroom with Kristin. She was lying in her hospital bed, eyes closed, seemingly sleeping; while the caregiver explained what we might expect in the next few days. I asked about Kristin’s breathing, which sounded to me as if it were quite painful. The answer to my question came from Kristin. Eyes still closed, she said, “It hurts like hell, but if you don’t do it you die.” Kristin did die, 5 days later. That profound statement was the last thing I heard her say.

To have these two statements connect in my memory is a real gift. The message I am eager to share and with which I hope to inspire is all about choosing life – “doing” life – not just going through but growing through life’s narrow spots, paying attention, slowing down, breathing deeply, listening to your heart and discovering that the universe moves. Do. Be. Alive. Otherwise, you are just a bunch of bones in the ground in a graveyard and you don’t eat anything and your teeth rot. That’s how profound a 4 year old can be.

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