Today you were admitted for the first time to the Palliative Care Unit. I’ve resisted writing about this journey – your terminal illness and my witnessing – for reasons that escape me. It almost requires too much effort to focus my complete attention on the task of recording the experience. Caring for you is sublimated by myriad distractions. But now ... tonight ... in this moment ... none exist. You’re still alive and yet I must ponder and elegiacal quatrain for a memorial seat we’re having placed at the end of your street – a seaside sentinel. Your chair will be a marvellous vista – a panoramic feast of your beloved Pacific Ocean ... the only ocean that “shimmers”.
I’m lying in your bed and I can smell you. I think of you ... needles penetrating tenuous flesh and veins that simply collapse in sympathy. Oxygen obediently and gently pumps your lungs. But I look into your eyes: battle worn and weary and I see your white flag aloft – imploring, entreating – may you have respite. May you have peace tonight. And I will endeavour to fulfil well-meaning platitudes, lauding the benefit of a goodnight’s sleep. All I hear is the “beep” of the machines in my head ... pump, pump, beep, beep.
14th December 2006
Grief is the strangest landscape. It is surreal to traverse. It is not linear experience. At times I feel violently punctuated by a frightening breathlessness. Sometimes I feel anger fermenting until I’m engulfed in a type of primal rage. I’m still not sure at what or whom I’m raging against. Sometimes at no one – then, at everyone, everything!
‘Life’ continues her
daily rhythms with a tremulous smile. I
know its hidden meaning. In one,
syncopated moment my mother stopped breathing.
She breathed out – the world breathed in ... and continued on its merry
way, in spite of her. This apparent
anomaly is not lost on me. The sun still
rises in defiant exaltation, heralding a day that for me reeks of decay. I sense no depth, no colour, no light or shade,
no variance, no subtlety. How did this
world become two dimensional?
So I sit. Sometimes I cry. The other day, I pulled out Mum’s good
glasses and dinnerware, lovingly ensconced in tissue paper – for special
occasions. Beads of anger formed on my brow. Glass, spectacularly airborne, scattered into
brilliant shards of pain. Collector
spoons and plates shake off their bubble wrap like children in sweaty
For this concert, I am the conductor. My adagio changes pace; frenetic energy gives way to a vengeful presto. I sit exhausted, tear stained, vacuous.