Joe Boughner: The Naked Dad


How to Avoid Talking About Death with Your Kids

The time will come; the day of your birthday party isn't it

"Where are you going tonight, Daddy?"

You asked me because I was putting on a shirt with a collar - a rare enough occasion but especially since it was a Saturday evening. You told me I looked "fancy" and "handsome" and the smile on your face said you meant it. It had been a long day thanks in large part to your successful and over-stimulating fifth birthday party; we were all tired. You and mom had just ordered Swiss Chalet for dinner but I wasn't joining you. 

Finding The Words: How To Talk To Your Kids About Death

"I'm just going out for a bit, kiddo."

It was a cop out. And trust me, I would've loved nothing more than to tell you the truth. After all, I was going out to celebrate the life of a man who lived the kind of life we would all do well to live. A man who meant more to me than I'd realized, moving me to tears at the news of his passing. 

Mark Valcour taught a lot of people how to make great radio but he taught us all a lot more than that too. Mark brought out the best in people with his unique blend of exacting professional standards and incredible warmth and compassion. He didn't tolerate subpar work but his perfectionism didn't come with the sort of arrogance or impatience that often accompany such a trait. No kiddo, his passing caused people to reflect and the words that appear time and time again are the sort of words we should all strive to leave as our legacy - big-hearted; heart of gold; patient, wonderful and honest.

And so that's what I should've said. But I didn't.

Because you've experienced death but you were too young to process it. When mommy's great-uncle passed away a few years ago we took you to the Mass that was held in his honour. You got upset - you've always been good at sensing the emotion in a room - even if you didn't know why so I took you up the street to a cafe for pancakes while mom and her family honoured his memory.

And while I know you're going to experience death again, I just wasn't ready to have the conversation yet. 

And so "I'm going out to meet up with some old friends and professors so we can share stories about an incredible man that I was fortunate to call mentor, colleague and friend - a man who was taken from us far too soon" became "I'm just going out for a bit, kiddo." 

But you deserve to know what Mark meant to me and to so many others, kiddo. You deserve to know that people like Mark can and do exist in this world and the world is better for it. You deserve to know that your dad strives to be that kind of person and hopes beyond hope that you do too. 

It's a heavy thing to think about, though, so for today, eat your Swiss Chalet with mommy and get to bed. We'll talk later.