The Boy Who Was Scared of Dying

by Jude Fischer

Once there was a boy who was dreadfully afraid of dying. Some folks are, you know. They’ve never done it to know how it feels, and they’re scared.

This boy was that way. He wasn’t very rugged, his health was sort of slim, and maybe that made him think about such things more. At any rate, he was terribly afraid of dying.

One day as this boy was sitting under a tree he heard a little bit of a voice—not squeaky, but small and thin and soft—and he saw it was a flower talking. It said, “What are you crying for?”

And the boy said, “Because I’m scared of dying.”

Well, the flower just laughed, the most curious little pinky-white laugh, and it said, “Dying! Scared of dying? Why, I die myself every single year of my life.”

“Die yourself!”, said the boy, “You’re fooling. You’re alive this minute.”

“Of course I am,” said the flower. “But that’s neither here nor there. I’ve died every year since I can remember.”

“Doesn’t it hurt?”

“No, it doesn’t, “ said the flower. “It’s real nice.

“You see, you get kind of tired holding your head up straight and looking pert and wide awake, and tired of the sun shining so hot, and the wind blowing you to pieces, and bees taking your honey. So it’s nice to feel sleepy and kind of hang your head down, and get sleepier and sleepier, and then find you’re dropping off.

“Then you wake up just at the nicest time of year, and come up and look around, and—why, I like to die, I do.”

But somehow that didn’t help the boy as much as you’d think.

“I’m not a flower,” he thought, “and maybe I wouldn’t come up.”

Well, another time he was sitting on a stone in the pasture, crying again, and he heard another unusual little voice. It wasn’t like the flower’s voice, but it was a little, woolly, soft fuzzy voice, and he saw it was a caterpillar talking to him.

And the caterpillar said in his fuzzy little voice, “What are you crying for?”

The boy answered, “I’m dreadfully afraid of dying, that’s why.”

And the fuzzy caterpillar laughed and said, “Dying! I’m looking forward to dying myself. All my family die every once in awhile, and when they wake up, they’re just splendid.

“They’ve got wings and the most wonderful colors, and they fly about and live on honey and things. Why, I wouldn’t miss it for anything! I’m looking forward to it.”

But somehow that didn’t cheer up the boy much. “I’m not a caterpillar,” he thought, “and maybe I wouldn’t wake up at all.”

Well, there were lots of other things that talked to the boy and tried to help him, trees and flowers and grass and crawling things that were always dying and living, and living and dying.

The boy thought it didn’t help him any, but I guess it did a little, for he couldn’t help thinking of what they all said to him. But he was scared all the same.

Then one summer he began to fail faster and faster, and he got so tired he could hardly hold his head up, but he was afraid all the same.

Then one day he was lying on the bed and looking out the east window, and the sun kept shining in his eyes till he shut them, and he fell asleep. He had a real good nap, and when he woke up, he felt better and went out to take a walk.

He began to think of what the flowers and trees and creatures had said about dying, and how they laughed at his being afraid of it, and he said to himself, “Well, somehow I don’t feel so scared today, but I suppose I am.”

And just then what do you think happened?

Why, he met an angel! He’d never seen one before, but he knew it right off.

The angel said to him, “Aren’t you happy, little boy?”

And the boy said, “Well, I would be, only I’m so frightfully scared of dying. It must be terribly curious to be dead.”

And the angel said, “Why, you are dead!”

And he was.

From Be Always Little, (1996), pp.135 – 138, available from MH Publications