Patience is four years old. She's a scientist with a neverending curiosity about how things work (a favorite program), how stuff is made (another favorite program) and is never afraid to get dirty in a quest to learn something (Dirty Jobs, another favorite).
But what really wows me is her attempts to grasp complex concepts that many adults struggle with, and bring them down to earth in concrete terms. This by no means removes the mystery.
Lately she has been struggling with God and Death.
Which world-class philosopher hasn't endeavored to explore the divine, and reason?
And here is my four year old, struggling with it too.
Her brain capacity to explore concepts exceeds her mental maturity and her vocabulary, which is huge by any stretch, but still inadequate to explain how this all unfolds to her.
Her brain is active, very active, even at night. She builds neural pathways in light and dark, no matter. Sometimes, at night she walks and talks in her sleep, and occasionally has night terrors. During the day she can be short-tempered, withdrawn and cranky. I know she is working something out.
And so she has been for the last week.
I've had a clue that she has been concerned about death. I think it is even age-appropriate, to suddenly at this age realize your parents are mortal and you might lose them. Patience misses nothing, and works through anything she sees or hears. Someone lost a parent, and Patience caught that concept, applied it as a theoretical possibility to herself, and foundered on the terror of being without Mommy, Daddy or both. The presented a Problem, which is like a bat signal for scientists.
So she began thinking through how to allay her anxiety about it. And she found something. (I want you to understand that Patience has been educated in Roman Catholicism so her views stem from this.)
When she is working through something, as I said, I can usually tell. Therefore, I try to work through it, support her, as best I can. We talk. Imagine. Play it out (her second favorite). By and far, however, she best likes to draw it out.
And the above drawing is her engineering schematic (as most things are with my little three-dimensional thinker) of God, Death and Everlasting Life through salvation.
I'm not making this up. Trust me. I couldn't. I'm not this clever.
This is Patience's explanation of her drawing:
Start at the bottom. This, Patience told me, is people when they die. (I want you to note that prone positions, with hands folded on chests. Where she picked up this, I do not know.) Nevertheless, the red people on the bottom are deceased.
The vague red drawings are the "pieces of people that go to Heaven." I believe she means the soul. Note they are still red to indicate the association with the person who passed away.
The blue portion is the entrance to Heaven, wher you enter the Gold Light.
Here, she told me, you are made new. New life, she explained.
The criss-crossed gold circle on the top right is God, she explained.
God brings you the Light and Life. He powers the machine, she explained. That's how the machine works. (And understand that this is a machine. The cycle, as per my little engineering child's mind.)
The final bit is a curious addition.
The blue is a conveyor belt moving the people God has infused with new life back to earth.
All the dead people go to heaven, she explained, summarizing, and God is going to bring them back to life, and then he sends them back to earth on the conveyor belt, alive.
I am amazed. Unutterably amazed.
By Julie Pippert
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