"Mom, what happens when someone lives alone and dey die?"
"What do you mean?"
"How do dey get buried?"
"Uh, well, they usually have friends or family that notice they're gone and those people call the police and then arrange for a burial or cremation."
(Oh shit, why did I bring up cremation?? That was so unnecessary! I so suck at this whole parenting thing!!)
"Cremation is, uh, when a dead body is turned into ashes."
"Ashes? What do you mean?"
"Like what's left over from a fire."
"Wait mom, how do dey do dat? Make da body be ashes? I don't like dis. Why?"
"It's nothing to feel weird about. Your body is just a shell, it's your soul that matters. Your soul goes up to heaven and then your body is just a used up shell. Like, you know when a snail changes shells? When you find a snail's old shell, it's just an empty shell--there's nothing special about it. You could break it up into a million pieces and no one would care because the snail moved on. You know?"
"Yeah. Mom?" he asked, his eyes looking watery, "When I die, will I be dead forever?" He took a deep, shuddering breath and started blinking rapidly.
"Uh--no. No. You'll be in heaven. Your soul will leave it's shell and go up to heaven and be with everyone you've been missing who died before you."
"Will I die before you do, mom?"
"God, no. No way," praying he wouldn't realize that this would mean that he'll be forced to eventually deal with my death.
"Oh, good!" he said with relief.
"Will I be dead when da two fousands are over wif?"
"What? When it becomes the year 3000?"
"Yeah, whatever comes after two fousand."
Unsure of how to answer, I hesitantly went with the truth. "Yes, you'll be gone by the year 3000."
"No!" he exclaimed, looking shocked and scared.
"Wait! I did my math wrong! Mama's so bad at math. It will be the year 2100 when the 2000s are over, and you'll still be alive then. You'll be alive, but really old. Probably chasing little kids off your lawn and telling younger people what the internet was like when you were 6."
"Whew," he said, looking relieved.
I'm not sure what the preoccupation is with death lately, but discussing the subject with a 6-year-old is like skipping through a field of land mines. After the last "whew" I quickly excused myself to the bathroom, where I hid until it was safe to come out.