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My Granddad died in 1996, and I wrote a little story around my feelings. It was only a short piece. Years later, I stumbled across it again. It had held up quite well. I polished it up and sent it out into the big world. I was delighted when it found a home.
Two weeks ago, my mother died. It was a horrible to watch her struggling to live, surrounded by machines that heartlessly showed us how fast she was fading away.
Before she went into her coma, she spoke with my niece. Her last words were “I’m very tired,” and “My children and family were what made my life perfect,” and her very last words were “I love you to the moon and back”.
Her last words to me were “I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I had rung her in her hospital room, planning to visit her that day, and asking her what she wanted. She asked me not to come because she was so tired … I didn’t know that was going to be my last chance ever to speak with her. Who knows these things? She had her fatal turn just a few hours after I spoke with her.
Today rolls around. I had forgotten all about my little story. It was published today. In it, the little old woman dies of exhaustion and malnutrition.
This is how a writer breaks her own heart.
That’s my Mother in the suit, beside the bride (my eldest child). This photo was taken in October last year. This is one of last photos of my mother with her husband, children and grandchildren, together one last time.
As mum was dying, her fingernails turned a delicate shade of lavender. As I watched, the lavender crept up her fingers until they were all the same shade. Brynne was holding her hand. I knew exactly when Brynne noticed the colour of her fingers and realised what it meant. She broke down. Her nana might have still been breathing those harsh and painful gulping breaths, but everything that made her nana, my Mum, was gone. There wasn’t enough oxygen to run her higher brain functions. Her body was sending the oxygen to her heart and lungs, struggling to keep her alive. Once the blood oxygen had gone under 50%, I knew she was gone. Long gone. Her body just needed a chance to catch up on the news.
Poor Dad wasn’t able to stay longer than 20 minutes at a time, because it was too overwhelming. It was nearly as bad watching him grieve, and the rest of my family grieve, as it was to watch over her. I gave her a foot rub. I recited poetry to her – she nodded her head when I asked if she wanted me to keep reading. We played all her favourite music – bless Spotify! I sang her the little songs she used to sing to us as children. After she had passed, I was allowed to pick her up and hold her. It felt like a hug from her, even though I knew it wasn’t.
I had this overwhelming urge to pick her up and run several times during the days and nights. Like we could outrun her death. The nurses told my sister that they had never seen so many people grieving in the ICU. We made the nurses cry.
I want my brave mother back.
I never knew it took as long to die as it did to get born.
Mum was a solid place in the world. With her gone, I feel like a yawning pit has opened up beneath my feet. I could slip into it at any moment. I was bereft when we lost Granddad. With Mum, I feel like I’ve been murdered in everything but my physical form. Cut away from the world. Walled away from joy. Left with nothing but bitter ashes.
My heart is scalded to a blister, and even though its so painful I want to scream, I know the real agony is before me. I’m still numbed and shocked. I’m still waiting to wake up from this terrible dream. Oh, how it is going to burn when the days and weeks stretch ahead without ever having her with me, ever again.
When I was eleven, I found a dead kitten in the paddock at the end of my street.
It couldn’t have been more than three or four weeks old, and it was perfect. The flies and ants hadn’t found it yet. It was lying on its back , hidden in the long grass, and I found it while exploring. I had been hoping to find mushrooms.
The kitten’s fur was still shiny and smooth. Its little toe beans were a little pale. I thought is was asleep at first glance, and was heartbroken when it was dead. I tried to revive it, holding it to my heart to warm it up, pressing its tiny chest with a finger. Of course, it remained dead.
How did the little corpse get to the paddock? Did its mother carry it there and abandon it to the elements? Was it snatched up by a hawk and then dropped? Did some monstrous human being drown it, and then discarded it? It was certainly too little to have crawled there, and it looked untouched.
It was a little brown tabby. As a grown cat, it would have been a tigerish beauty. Even the softness and sweetness of its tiny claws weren’t enough to save it from that greatest of ambush predators, Death.
I buried it were I found it.
It will tell you a lot about me, that I spend years afterwards searching for live kittens in that paddock.
Damnation, I want to be writing for profit! I want to make my publishers a ton of money so that they can go ‘whoot’ and roll in cash. I want to keep my family in the lifestyle they deserve. One hundred years from now, I want scholars to be picking apart my work looking for clues of my inner life. My cat deserves caviar and emerald collars! I want new books! And unlimited bookcases!