When she was four and a half I took my daughter to her first movie in a theater. Disney’s “The Fox and the Hound”. Five minutes into the film the momma fox is hiding her pup in the forest to protect him. Upon hearing the approach of hunters, she dashes off to lead them away from her little one.

The cute, confused face of the baby fox.

A distant gunshot.

And silence.

Uh oh….

Courtney looked up at me, unblinking. “What happened to the mommy, Daddy?”

Do I lie? God, look at that little face. I want her to be able to trust me. No, I think she can take it. She’ll understand. Be honest — gentle, but honest.

“She…… died, honey.”


There was no consoling her and we had to leave. So much for candor.

The disappearance of a dear one from our life will never be a feat of ease for those who must reckon with it. About six months later we found a dead finch in the yard and she started asking me about death.

“Am I going to die someday?”

“Every living thing has a beginning, a time to be, and an end. It happens to everyone, sweetheart.”

“Are you going to die someday?”

Do I break her heart again? Those adorable eyes…..


Long thoughtful look at my face. Then finally, “Where will you go when you die?”

“Well, I’m kinda hoping I’ll get to go to heaven.”

“Where’s heaven?”

And that kicked it all off. I thought she would have been satisfied with a stock Sunday school answer. But she had to take it further and I was suddenly on unsteady turf.

At this point in my life I hadn’t really warmed to any kind of faith and her question got me thinking. There she was with those precious, searching eyes, waiting for an answer. Barely five years old and so curious about the big issues. When I was five I was lucky if I could figure out how the bathroom doorknob worked.

But still, that’s the eternal question, isn’t it — Where do we go? The answer I finally gave her is the answer I still hold to today.

When my mother passed away two years ago, I kept hearing my daughter’s question returning from 21 years before — “Where’s heaven?” For weeks after the funeral I could only think of all the wonderful things my mother had been to me — a personable, kind, morally decent, insightful, generous and witty woman who read aloud to her children. Also the single funniest person I ever met.

In my reminiscence of her, I tried to consider how Mom might have answered my daughter’s question had I been sharp enough to ask it of her myself. This is how I imagine she would have explained it…..

Going Places
(© 2013 Michael J. Cahill)

“Where Shall We Go?” has always been
My favorite game with you
When you were small upon my knee
What traveling we would do

The yard beyond our windowsill — ?
An icy mountain steep
Or a Viking ocean full of storm
Or a jungle forest deep

The universe was ours to roam
By land and sea and air
By hawk and mule and rocket fuel
What journey’s we would share

There is one voyage separate
From all that we will take
But oh, my love, though by myself
I will not you forsake

Yes, by and by, one day I’ll die
As all God’s creatures must
But I shall spend eternity
As something more than dust

And if I go to heaven
We will not be far apart
For don’t you know, my darling child
That heaven’s in your heart





21 thoughts on “Traveler

  1. So sweet. Your a good father, son. If I called Heaven the Ocean, we are all cups of it.
    Fox and hound great classic, abrupt lose of life like life can be, but also shows how two animals completely trained in nature and man can be friends traveling together no matter the differences. “I’m a hounnnd dog”.. best little voice ever!

    Have a great day,

  2. Okay. So you brought many tears to my eyes. This was beautiful! Thank you for sharing it. I’m hopping over from the A to Z as one of Matt’s minions! It’s wonderful to meet you.

    • So very nice to meet you at well. Never met a minion before but if they’re all like you I want to know more.Seriously, I’m happy my post moved you and I dearly appreciated your stopping by. Cheers.

  3. My goodness, you have a gift! You TRULY do! Your way with words moves me. I dare say you are gifted at life and relationships as well, no matter what circumstances may have you believe. I hope you keep writing, so I can keep enjoying. 🙂

    • Rhonda, my dear, you shower me with praise and I feel dumbfounded and undeserving. At the same time my goofy little ego is telling me to shut the hell up and take the compliment. So I demure to my inner wisdom and offer you a deep bow of gratitude for your many kindnesses.

      Thank you so very much for your glowing remarks. They truly mean a lot to me

      • You are very deserving, so go with the goofy little ego and shut the hell up and take the compliment. 🙂
        (and you’re welcome…Lol)
        (and please don’t really shut the hell up…) 🙂

  4. The big questions, those that reach into eternity! They make us wonder. They make us fear. They make us flee. Why is it that we run from them and stop searching for the answers if they are “The Big Questions?” They are worth seeking out to truth. Your story and poem has me pondering if I have addressed the big questions with sincerity and truth with those tender lives given to my care. I believe I have. Appreciate your perspective, Michael. God bless, Maria at Delight Directed Living

  5. Beautiful poem. My son is four and the questions he asks amaze me. I don’t want to lie to him but at the same time he’s not always ready for the full answer. It’s a balancing game, trying to find the right answers.

    • That’s sort of a kid’s job — to amaze us. They’re so very good at it. I’m so happy that you got that it’s a balancing act. I almost went in that direction but I didn’t want to over write this. It’s sometimes tough to stay on topic when there are so many emotions attached. Thanks for reading. Cheers.

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