As the sun filters in through my bedroom window, so too does reality. I immediately remember last night, and feel a stab of regret. Fuck it – it was unavoidable. I tell myself, self-righteously, that I was perfectly justified. But it doesn’t work, the regret is still there. I can’t dwell on it anyway – there are things to be done. The practical world that has the sheer audacity to go on waits again.
My father takes me to a lawyer. The office is a bright abomination of stark reality. The need to be here utterly sickens me as I sit down in the over-priced chair. It is an hour of insufferable reality. There are so many questions that I don’t want to answer. No, she didn’t have a will. Yes, I am the only dependent. The lawyer explains that because of the lack of a will, an affidavit must be drawn up and taken to the Supreme Court. It seems that I must justify to a body of people that know nothing of me or my mother exactly why I am entitled to her estate. The lawyer needs to make sure there is no one else who may have a claim to her estate. I hate the way it is called an estate – it’s not a fucking rural castle-style property in England with horses and spaniels, it’s the things that belonged to my dead mother. There are more questions about her; cold, heartless, insignificant questions. Did she remarry? Did she have a de-facto? The lawyer asks this because if mum did have a partner then he may have a claim to the estate. Thank god she god rid of all her suitors in time, and that she never agreed to live with any of them in case it cramped her independent social life-style.
It seems clear that I am the only rightful beneficiary. We draw it up the stupid affidavit that claims just that. Documents are needed to accompany it. I will have to find them – birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificate, and divorce details. I think of her poorly organised filing cabinet and cringe.
And then a question comes that I really wasn’t expecting. Do you have a will Rebecca? Of course not I say angrily, I’m twenty-seven for god’s sake! The lawyer explains, again with that cold objectivity, that assets will be coming in – money, insurance, superannuation – it will all be coming to me. She says I need to write a will to protect these assets, and I should probably do it now considering I am with child. This is totally unexpected. Yet it makes sense to me – I do need to protect my son from enduring this kind of nightmare. I agree to write up a will on the spot. But I have no idea what I am in for. There are questions, so many questions, and they are ones that I am completely unprepared for. It is done then and there – an unexpected session at the administrative torture chamber. Then and there I must decide … Who will your estate go to if you die? Obviously Ross, and then to my son. If you and Ross both die who will it go to? Again obvious – to our son. If you Ross and your son are killed then who will it go to? That I have to think about, and the mere thought of my son dying is inconceivable. I try to think of it practically and just answer as quickly as possible. Trudy – I would want it all to go to Trudy. Who will be the executor? I am unsure, so dad offers to put his name down. We put down Ross’ too. Then the lawyer tells me that it’s a good idea to write out a list of who you want particular possessions to go to, along with any funerary wishes and requests. I shudder internally; of course, no problem, I’ll whip that up now! Still, I answer all the questions and agree to write a list of particulars, which I fully intend to do. I must protect my son from having to go through this when I die. I do it for him. I will NOT have him subjected to this kind of torment.
As my father drives me home I roll down the window and light up a smoke. I can’t hold back the tears. I begin to cry aloud, still in disbelief that I just had to go through all that, and it is just the beginning.
When I get home I need some kind of action to distract me from the pain. I look around the house at all her stuff. Some of it has been sorted into piles, but there is still so much left. There is just an insurmountable amount of stuff. I decide it might be a nice idea to pile some of mum’s treasured possessions into little collections to give to her friends and family. I immediately go to a variety store and purchase about twenty large pink boxes, and some pink feathers and glitter too. I take them home and label them with the names of the people closest to her. It’s a long list. Then I begin to sort through her things and place some of them into each box.
As I sort I come upon things I haven’t the strength to let go of. I gently tuck them away for myself. I put them away for later so they can’t hurt me now. This is no time for emotion. I spend what seems like another eternity just going through her very poorly organised and over-crowded games room, which had been posing as a study for years. I don’t have the strength to sort through her bedroom, so I decide to leave it until last. As I go along, sorting the things into piles, the giant pink boxes steadily get filled with treasures. I become quite consumed with the task. For days and days I make up these boxes, with only the slightest dash of hope that they may somehow bring one moment of comfort to the people she has left behind.
The hardest part comes at the end. I find the big stash of mum’s memorabilia; she has kept thousands of cards and letters and photos. I sort them all out, trying not to cry out as I read the cards and letters. I place them lovingly into the right boxes, marvelling at the cruelty of having to return them to the people who gave them to her, but at the same time knowing that it will mean something to them that she kept them for all these years.
The day started out okay – stupid self, thinking that! You know I actually thought when I woke up today, ‘Hmmm today it feels a little bit better, just a bit better… a touch’. Relieved by this feeling, I continued to organise the Ellie memory boxes that have become my obsession. It makes me feel like I’m contributing something; like I’m helping the other people who loved her somehow. So I plodded away at my boxes, feeling quite capable. I wrap each item individually, and place it in its box, ready for its new home, where it will be loved and it will remind the new owner of their fond memories with my mother. I was feeling competent in this task today.
That was until I received the letter from the Bunbury Cemetery Board. The letter telling me about various options for my MOTHER’S ashes, equipped with a brochure, gloating about their facilities. They need permission to inter the ashes or whatever else you want them to do. I read it with my mouth open, aghast, as it suddenly occurs to me … that’s what she is now. My 55 year old mum is ashes. She is a pile of ashes. Not even asleep; she is never to awake again. Ashes. Her body has been turned to ashes. That is all that remains. Ashes. Ashes. Ashes. She has turned to ash. It is another hideous knife to the heart. Don’t present me with options as to what to do with her … with her….ashes. What an extraordinary request! What do you want us to do with her? Gee, I don’t know, bring her back maybe?! How can she be ashes? How can all that remains of that exuberantly glorious, pink, dazzling, diamond-coated soul be FUCKING ASHES!? Don’t give me pictures of your stupid memorial gardens! Don’t give me a brochure laying down my options, literally in black and white – not even in pink! They could at least have had the decency to present my options in pink – lousy bastards, unfeeling robots devoid of pink.
I read the accompanying letter again and survey its contents. I so wish for other contents; any other contents. Anything for this not to be the truth. The stupid, smug truth. Inescapable. But the truth nonetheless. I hate the word truth now. I used to revere truth. Seek it. Long for it even. Now I hate it. I hate it with such intense passion that I actually imagine a personification of truth – all glowing and holy and white. And then I fantasise about stabbing it with small blunt instruments of unthinkable torture that are designed to inflict the most amount of physical pain possible. Pain is my new existence. I feel angry, guilty, sad, angry guilty sad!
That’s all there is now – pain. This is just another piece of evidence for that. And pain is clearly all there ever will be. Nothing else is possible. It’s not possible that I’m alive. It’s not possible that I’m pregnant. It’s not possible that I have re-found the love of my life. It’s not possible that I even exist now. Without her I am nothing. And now it is confirmed – like I didn’t know it before. It is confirmed that she is gone, dead, not here, exterminated, obliterated, TAKEN! And I have no control over any of it. There is no relief. No beauty. No release. No comfort. No nothing. Just pain. Insatiable, agonising, oblique, black misted pain.
Damn, I just had to go to the toilet. How ridiculous! I had to disturb my lamentations and carry out a natural daily activity. How bizarre. Doesn’t my body know how it has changed – how it will never be the same? How my heart is no longer there? Stupid ignorant body, it doesn’t know anything! Nobody does. You know who knows something? Mr Wine. I am going to drink a bottle of wine – a whole bottle. I wish I had vodka, but I’m kinda glad I don’t.
I feel so angry that I’ve been reduced to this. Last night was supposed to be my last drinking night. Once I polished off the few bottles of red left over from my DEAD MOTHER’S birthday party (just to clarify the red bottles were left over because she had no taste for good wine, and only drank sickeningly sweet sparkling wine like passion pop – the red was for the ‘guests’). How ironic, that now the left over red has been used for another purpose – to allow me to live in her absence; her selfish, unwarranted absence. I promised myself I was going to stop drinking, no matter how painful the grief was. I was going to take care of my baby, and to try to take care of myself. Myself. Do I even have a self now? I think not. But the life inside me testifies otherwise. Although, he doesn’t move as much now. Just this morning I was thinking, ‘I am sad, he’s not moving so much now because he knows I’m sad and now he is sad. What a fucked way to be a manifested. You need to try Beck, just try’. And I did. And I was almost successful for a few hours.
‘Time to Say Goodbye,’ has just emerged from my headset as I’m writing this. And quite frankly it annoys me and I’m downright indignant. I’m not ready to say goodbye you unfeeling, callous, beautifully gifted voices, YOU ASSHOLES! I won’t say goodbye. I WON’T!!! You can’t make me Andrea Boccelli! Just because you’re blind it doesn’t mean you can push other people around you know! Try being pregnant and losing your mother without warning – your mother who you utterly adorned mind you! Stupid, ignorantly gifted blind bastard. I would give my sight and all my other useless now void senses to have her back for even one minute, one moment, just to say goodbye. But no, I wasn’t even given that chance. I don’t even know why she left me. Some people get sick, and it’s painful, but it’s a relief when they go; a beautifully cruel relief, but still, a blessing. But my MOTHER LOVED LIFE YOU PRICK OF A UNIVERSE! SHE DIDN’T WANT TO GO ANYWHERE! SHE LOVED IT! SHE LOVED IT ALL AND YOU TOOK HER AWAY WITHOUT SO MUCH AS A MINI STROKE TO EXERCISE CAUTION WITH YOU CUNTY ASS SWINE WRANGLING BASTARD STRUMPET FATE!!!
I don’t know how to make sense of it. And you know what happens when I can’t make sense of things? I fall apart. I have even made a half-hearted attempt to end it all in the past. I need things to make sense – to happen for a reason. I NEED that. But the universe continues to just blatantly ignore my deepest need! So what point is there is doing anything, in going on at all? There is no point. Oh, yes, of course, the child – the child that I am going to be nothing more than a cynical black shell of a mother to. What do I say to the child? How do I explain it? ‘Yes, well darling, you know I could drop dead at any moment like your Grammy who you never met, but try to love life anyway’. Outrageous! Blatantly outrageous! I won’t have it. I simply won’t have it. There has to be another reality. Another truth somewhere out there.
You know there’s not Rebecca. You know there is not … and again it makes you sink into a violet pool of grief that you know, with certainty, that you’ll never escape from. And why would you want to?
Paperwork. There is so much paperwork. I am drowning in paper. I want to destroy the existence of paper and all paper related products. There is no end to the papers that keep coming in, or the ones that I need to find and send off to various places. There is insurance to be claimed – life insurance and superannuation. There are lengthy forms to fill out for all three insurance claims. There is a mortgage that must be paid off. There is a silly pink car that must be transferred into my name before I can sell it. This house needs to be transferred into my name before I can sell it. But the Supreme Court must review my case first and grant me the elusive ‘Papers of Administration’ before anyone will give me anything. I can’t even touch her bank account until that happens. Papers … all around me … papers, letters, phone-calls, appointments, papers, administration, certified copies, papers, forms, and more forms. They all collectively laugh in the face of grief.