Death and Hamburger Helper

I am ready for sunshine and that general happy feeling of summer. I am tired of dreary, sickness, and death. Not as tired as some but still I think we’ve all had enough bad things that we could use a good day. I would like to coordinate the international “Good Day” when we just agree to not let things suck. No gifts or thoughts or cards or imaginary creatures that allow grownups to keep the kids in-line for a month before. Just a day where we follow the rules of; 1) Smile for no reason and 2) Don’t be a jerk.

One of our children has become pre-occupied with death. I don’t know why or really how to deal with it because she is somewhat obsessive about different subjects at different times. She is scared about dying or death meaning that you are in a box inside the Earth and it will spin for all eternity and she doesn’t want to be stuck in a box. It seemed irrelevant to tell her that she would be dead and it wouldn’t matter.

 What a crappy subject. I have mixed feelings about what to tell her concerning death because I worry that if there is a personality or chemical imbalance then I certainly don’t want to sell death as a vacation. Then again how dreary can it get to be unhappy and think that the next phase is spinning around the earth in a box in the dark forever. Do you tell her about the cremation option? “Don’t worry there isn’t a box if you choose to be burned into a pile of ash.” Yeah I can see the father-of-the-year award being handed over.

So we took an alternate route. I decided maybe we could talk about it head on.

“What is bothering you about death?”

“They say you don’t get to talk anymore.”

“Who says that?”


“Did Jane say that?”

“Maybe. No. Maybe…”

“Well whoever said anything about death is just guessing.”

“But they know.”

“Are they dead?”


“Then how can they know?”


“They don’t. And we don’t like things we don’t know. Those things scare us.”

“The dark scares me too.”

“Is it because you don’t know what is there? Or is it because you tell yourself something bad is there?”

“I don’t know. But I don’t want to die.”

Sometimes you want to hug the answers into them and the fear out. Sometimes you want that to work for you too. We have similar fears and children are just honest about it.

How many of us are totally faking the funk about being scared of the dark. I hate going places that I can’t see what is waiting around the corner. I remember one night I was taking the trash out to the curb and the wind was blustery and the streetlight was out. Further streetlights were casting dim light and long shadows. Rustling leaves would completely hide sounds from whatever boogey man or vicious dog was lying in wait for me. My brain was hyper-alert and I moved quickly to the curb. I made the drop and turned back towards the house and my would-be attacker suddenly moved in the shadows. I was convinced a panther was on my heels and the adrenaline fueled war-cry and Chuck Norris style flying kick were plenty defense against any predator that would have been attacking me. That little black kitten had no idea who he was messing with and the sheer panic on his face as he escaped across my path and into some bushes didn’t help me feel anymore manly about my reaction. The little bastard could have hissed or something sinister.

Today I faced a new shadow along a walk to the curb. Death is around. Lurking.  Most of us don’t even try to fake that fear. I looked at my precious little girl and saw her mother and my mother and her sisters and a grandmother. I had a new thought to try out on her.

“So Prima, you are scared to die because you don’t want to go away, right?”


“You know how people tell you that you look like other people? Like Aunt Daisy and Supermom and your Noni?”


“But then sometimes you say something funny and people tell you that you are like daddy.”

“Yes that happens too.”

“So if every part of you is shared with someone else. Every thought you have is a collection from people you love. If every person you meet will take something from meeting you that they will remember. Our job is to take as much in as we can and to send it right back out to those who need it. It seems to me that not only will the things that define “Prima” not truly die but by giving all the best of yourself to others, you might have a chance to live forever. But remember not to overshare with strangers, people are afraid of what they don’t know. I would start with a smile and go from there. “

“I don’t like Hamburger helper daddy.”

“Who is talking Hamburger Helper? I am giving you existential nuggets of truth to validate your existence and you ponder back and forth for Hamburger Helper? It isn’t even hamburger it is the Tuna Helper brand. See the box, shitty tuna skillet meal, says so right there.”

That is exactly why we don’t have serious hobbies. No attention span.

 I have no idea what I accomplished. Maybe she was looking for attention for a little while and when supper was done she felt better. She says some strange things and I just want to explore the tough subjects.

I just hope they never corner me and demand to know why I fixed unhealthy meals like Hamburger Helper. That is a question that I am seriously underprepared for.

So if you answer a kids question about death with, “Oh wow! Was that a squirrel?” This post is for you. You’re Welcome.


-Underdaddy to the Rescue


  1. Wow, that was exceptionally well handled. I’ll need to remember that for when I get the question.

    My parents are non-religious (and chemists). Their response to my childhood existential crisis consisted of, “Well, the molecules that comprise you, will no longer comprise you, so make your time on Earth count and live life to the fullest. Now go do your homework.” I didn’t sleep for a week afterwards.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The death subject is one of the most difficult. I think you did a great job saying that.
    I’m 42 and terrified of death (since forever). I’m not sure why.
    I will ask my parents what kind of story they told me when I was a kid. I hope it was not what you told Prima 😀


      1. I truly don’t imagine my mom being so deep, but I’ll ask 🙂
        (I also didn’t talk with old people when I was young because I was afraid that they could die near me… :D)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It sounds like an opportunity to introduce her to the spiritual side of her conscience that is apparently lacking in your family. Maybe it is a journey that you could brace together? I believe athiestic parenting is no different than forcing religion on a child. It is so comforting to know that she does not accept death on its face at such a young age.


  4. Well you did; by your lack of offering abstracts views to something that has your child so intrigued and frightened. Wouldn’t it be insightful to explain how people all around the world–from different religions–all share something in common: Placing their faith in a higher power to transcend them into an afterlife. The body is merely a vessel UnderDaddy. She shouldn’t have to worry about what happens to it once the spirit leaves this earth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your assumptions. You do understand that you chastised me for offering a “viewpoint” and then proceeded to tell me a “viewpoint”, right? Why should yours be more comforting just because it is to you? I told you I was a bad parent. It is in the “About” page.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so sorry if I offended you in any way. It actually sounds like you don’t give yourself enough credit; you are an amazing parent. I was very careful in my response not to give my viewpoint. It I had, I would have pushed Christianity as the ideal belief. I was just sharing what I thought was insightful advice–a different perspective for such a tough conversation. If you are not open to discussion I will not reply to posts in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry, intent is so hard to judge online. I am just having fun with it. You are always free to comment and I like a good banter. I think deep down lives a child and in that child is an asshole who likes to argue on the web.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Death is never an easy subject at any age, but it sure sounds like you did a good job handling it and talking to Prima in a way that she could understand. Also, don’t be so sure that you didn’t leave an impression on her (despite her quick change to the Hamburger Helper, which, btw, made me lol). When our dog died when I was little, my mom explained to me that our dog wasn’t truly gone, and that her body was just a container for her spirit. To this day, I still visualize Tupperware opening up and releasing someone’s spirit when they die–oddly, it’s more comforting than it sounds. So, you never know. Little Prima may someday tell her kids the same words that you told her about death, and then they’ll turn around and tell her that they hate Hamburger Helper.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My American English is not perfect. I am used to being direct in my conversation. I have terrible diction. If If I tried my hand at poetry, I would either be a genius or below the likes of McGonagall. No worries at all by the way. Thank you for this blog! 🙂


  8. Wow! You handled a tough subject really well. And then got the Hamburger Helper response, which I like to think of as a variaton of “Oh, look! A squirrel!” which basically means “You’re talking too much I only *appear* to be listening let’s change the subject.”


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