I wake up from an excellent sleep to a lovely sunny day beaming in through my window. Dreamily I place my hands on my growing belly – only four months to go now. I get up and pad into the lounge to wake Ross. We discuss our plan for the day. I need to go to the shops to buy Aunty Marj a 90th birthday present. We get ready and Ross drives me to the shops at Woodvale. We go into a gift store and spend quality time laughing at all the products. Finally I select an appropriate gift – an angel figurine. Whilst browsing I become delirious with hunger and demand we go to Subway. I spend ages debating on the best subway sandwich, which is then beyond exciting to me in its creation. We drive home. I nestle on my cream vinyl chair and contentedly devoured said perfect sandwich. Ross polishes off his as I move on to my second delicious bite. He leaves to go up to his parent’s house.
Half-way through my sandwich experience the phone rings. I let it ring – sandwich takes priority. Upon completion of my satisfying sandwich I think to myself that I better check and see if there’s a voice message. I wouldn’t usually bother, but something tells me to check. I wander over to the phone. One voice mail message received …
‘Rebecca, you don’t know me, but its Dan calling – the principal of Merriwa. I’m calling to let you know that your mother has had a fall at school and has been taken to hospital. It’s probably best if you call them directly. All the best and please let me know if you need anything. You can contact me on…’
As the words resound through the phone I feel my grip tighten upon it, as an icy hot shiver rolls down my neck. I drop the phone and grab my keys, rush to the door and fumble with my mobile to call Ross. I get hold of Ross on the way out to the car and hastily tell him to meet me at the hospital. I proceed to speed up to Joondalup Hospital. I get several lights. I sit fidgeting and annoyed at the audacity of them. I get a mounting feeling of worry. I try to calm myself by thinking that she has had falls before, because of dizzy spells, and this time she must have just hit her head and needed stitches, but she’ll obviously be fine. I genuinely believe she will be fine and it won’t be serious, but I’m worried nonetheless.
I park very badly at Joondalup Hospital and attempt to run, quite unsuccessfully, with my pregnant belly into emergency. I wait in the crowded waiting room in the line to speak to a receptionist. It is my turn. I approach the full glass plate and eagerly say through the tiny glass hole that my mother has been brought in. The unfeeling lady taps on her computer, ‘Yep, just take a seat and someone will show you through’.
I unhappily take a seat with the other ailing humans as doubt and worry continued to mount their expedition into the caverns of my jittery soul. Miraculously I don’t have to wait long. A nurse opens the huge emergency doors and tells me to come through. I expect her to take me straight through to see mum, but she diverts me into a stark little room with a solid sturdy door. The little room is equipped with two black couches, a water cooler, and nothing else. I don’t sit. As soon as we get in there I turn abruptly to her,
‘What’s going on? Where’s my mum? What’s happened?’ I demand snappily.
Blocking the door, the petite, blonde, middle-aged nurse responds with, ‘You need to wait until the doctor comes in to see you. He will explain everything’.
I am incredibly confused. Why haven’t I been taken directly to her? Why am I in this room? I continue to protest, ‘Look, I haven’t been told anything, I just want to know exactly what has happened. Has she hit her head? Is she getting stitches, what?’
Very calmly she says, ‘The doctors’ are working on her. They will let you know as soon as they know anything’.
I am utterly baffled. Working on her? What the hell is that supposed to mean??? Putting stitches in? Giving her an ECG? I instantly have a dawning realisation that they are not going to let me through to see her, and that there is obviously a good reason for not doing so. Working on her … something is very wrong – so very, very wrong.
These thoughts rush through my head in one second. Feebly I utter, ‘I don’t know what that means – what does that mean?’
The nurse looks sternly at me, lowers her head and says, very calmly, ‘I’m trying to tell you that she might die’.
I stare at her vacantly. ‘What?’ I am unable to comprehend why someone – particularly a trained health care professional – would say something so cruelly unwarranted. As I respond with naïve disbelief I simultaneously feel an icy rush of fear sweep mercilessly through my body. I think to myself ‘When they tell me that mum’s okay I’m going to get this callous bitch for her heartless and inaccurate information and sue this stupid excuse for a hospital’. I am satisfied and pleased with the plan to sue.
Watching my attempt to process what she has said, she adds, ‘The doctor will be in soon’. She opens the sturdy door just as Ross comes in, all hot and concerned. I immediately begin babbling about the audacity of the misinformed nurse. Ross is trying to make sense of what I am saying when a young doctor in blue scrubs enters. He is very young, tall and lean, with dark rimmed glasses and a healthy head of curly black hair and a sturdy beard to match. He fills the room with unspoken answers. I step back as he moves to shake Ross’ hand and then mine. He gestures for us to sit on one of the stark black couches. I gingerly do so, as he perches himself on the one opposite. The ominous black pair of seating devices are in very close proximity to each-other. I am too close to the doctor. The room is suffocatingly small. I sit and take in his image, wondering at, and dreading, his ability to make words with his stranger-like mouth. I wait for what seems like an elongated second before I see his lips begin to form around the first of what would be his few words. I am sitting offensively upright on the right-hand side on the couch in my black maternity pants and my grey footloose t-shirt, waiting. Ross is sitting on the left edge of the same couch, leaning forward in anticipation.
The young doctor’s mouth forms a word and speaks, ‘Well, at this stage, your mother has actually passed’.
I stare at him, vacantly and disbelievingly. That moment is the longest of my life. Everything goes darker. An icy heat falls into my legs and plummets to my feet. I feel myself go pale. I feel the life drain out of me quickly in an excruciating process of slow motion. Ross’ hand grabs my right knee, as his body falls forward. ‘Oh god,’ he mutters.
I don’t move. I perch, paralysed. My brain tries to register the evil doctor’s one line of communication, but it can’t. Dead? Impossible – absolutely and irrefutably impossible. Somehow I find that my mouth is forming shapes to make words. I hear my own voice say, ‘What? But she can’t be. How? What happened?’ There is no emotion, just disbelief.
The dark doctor clasps his mammoth hands together, looks down, adjusts his dark-rimmed glasses, then looks at me directly, and begins explaining, ‘She had what we call a ‘catastrophic’ event, probably a heart attack. She was unable to be revived, it’s likely she died on the spot’. His mouth stops making sound.
My brain attempts to process this new unsatisfactory information, but again it can’t. Died? Catastrophic? Spot? Heart attack? ‘But, I thought she just fell. What exactly happened? Did she hit her head? What the hell happened?!’ I demand more forcefully.
Again he adjusts his glasses as he casts his beady, unsympathetic eyes on my form. ‘She did fall. She apparently felt very sick at school and went to the bathroom where she subsequently fell. The staff administered CPR until the ambulance came and took over. They continued to administer CPR until she got to the hospital but there was no response. It is most likely that she died upon impact and we were ultimately unable to revive her’.
My whole body is immersed in a cool cavern of tainted reality. Shivers pulsate agonisingly through my veins. The life in me surrenders itself to the stark, solid ground. I am sinking … drowning. In a purple oblivion. Vivid shapes and colours dance through the starkness. The dripping water cooler. The stranger’s evil face. A momentous mountain of words. I am unable to fathom them. I am unable to comprehend or register the gravity of the words. Words. Such ridiculous words. It can’t be. It cannot be true. She cannot be dead. But yet the strange, young, evil man is telling me that she is. She is dead. She can’t be. Can she? How? So quickly? But she was fine yesterday! We had a normal night. We watched TV. We laughed at the man with the lisp, who looks like a proboscis monkey on The Farmer Wants a Wife! My mother’s dead? No. No. No. It’s not true. You lie. You all lie. The universe wouldn’t do this to me!
These thoughts unravel my sanity, but they happen in less than a minute, as the strange – becoming more and more evil heading towards truly demonic- young doctor stares at me, watching for my response. My response, which is trying to formulate itself into a shock reaction but can’t quite manage it because it refuses to acknowledge that there is a legitimate reason to do so. Yet I feel it. I feel it beginning to burn through me … to claw at my insides … to attempt to burst out in one never ending insidious cry of drawn-out, murderous, stabbing, frightening, devastating anguish. It’s there and it’s mounting inside me. This is real. My body, the one that I can barely feel, which doesn’t feel like mine, is beginning to respond and register the ridiculous information that has been so sickeningly and callously presented to it by the demon man. The comprehension is sinking in quickly now. Oh god! There is a strange hallucination of my Aunty Anne, coming in through the sturdy door. No – she is actually here. She looks inquiringly at the demon man, who briefly recites the same unwanted information. She sits on the edge of the black couch of death and stares at him, then covers her mouth with her hand, ‘Dead?! Oh god. OH GOD! Beck, oh Beck darling, OH GOD!’ escapes her.
I feel her little shaking frame embracing my broken frozen one. She begins to cry. Hysteria starts to consume her as the realisation saturates her mind. The realisation is hitting my mind as well. I lean forward. I am looking into an abyss of black agony. I feel the heaviness of my body wanting to fall. It wants to give up. Then suddenly a rational thought wedges its way into the logical recesses of my mind. The baby. Oh god, the baby. You’re pregnant. What are you going to do now? What about the baby? You HAVE to take care of the baby. No. No. It cannot be. I am not faced with this reality right now. Not when I’m pregnant. Not when I’m half way through my pregnancy. It can’t be happening. This is not happening. It is not real. The world couldn’t manifest something so eternally unjustifiably cruel. It is not even within the capabilities of the universe to envision such cruelty. Yet it is happening to me. RIGHT NOW. It is happening to my body, my mind, my world, MY REALITY. I don’t want this reality. I won’t take it. My body is getting heavier – heavier with the weight of fresh shock and of realising I have to survive it because of the baby … my baby. Somehow I have to forge a path through because I am the mother now. I have to make it. I have to survive. There is not even the option of madness, or of death, both of which are so illustriously glorious and golden in their appeal. This is a reality that there will be no escape from. No relief. No end. Because I must take it. The realisation of all this happens in one minute, and it knocks the breath right out of me. I cannot breathe anymore. Inhalation is not possible.
The demon man asks me if I want a glass of water or anything. I had forgotten he was there. I feebly utter that I could use a xanax right about now and mumble something incoherent about not being able to deal with this right now because I’m pregnant. I legitimately expect him to register the audacity of the circumstances and take a personal stand against the fate of the universe and fight for me to get another one, ending in the conclusion that he had made a mistake as clearly the universe could not deliver such a blow to someone who was pregnant. He fails to deliver this conclusion. I feel the resentment mounting in my soul.
The thought of seeing her, the need to see her, abruptly forces itself into my consciousness. I meekly inquire. He says, ‘Yes, you can see her if you wish, just give us a few minutes to clean her up and get her ready then someone will come back to get you.’ He gets up and leaves. Get her ready? Clean her up? What have you done to her you demonic bastards?! I have the sudden realisation that I will have to see her. I will have to acknowledge the truth of the demon man’s words. I will have to acknowledge the fact that she is gone – that she will never come back … that she is in fact … dead. The word dead echoes through my crowded mind with a jolt of unwarranted simplicity. I don’t feel I can acknowledge it. I don’t want to. Every fibre of my being pushes against the possibility of her imminent death. No … not even imminent – present state of death. It is surely not physically possible to do such a thing; to acknowledge it. Yet this is what is asked of me? Impossible. But I must see her. I need to see her for myself. Then maybe I will find that they’ve got it all wrong, and someone else’s mum is in fact dead, and mine is in fact fine. They’ll tell me that there’d been a mix up and my mother is fine, with a few stitches, and is currently engaged in eagerly hacking into a hospital sandwich, ready to be taken home when she had had her fill of the free food. Yes. Surely that’s the case. The demon man has got it wrong. And he will realise that when he ‘goes to get her ready’. Obviously that’s what will happen. Stupid useless fool – can’t even do his job properly. I’ll have his entire career for this!
Aunty Anne is making sounds. But my brain is ferociously louder than her voice. What if they haven’t made a mistake? What if the demon man is telling the truth? Am I about to be confronted with my mother’s dead body? How can I be confronted with that? No one in my condition could be. It’s simply outrageous. But I have to go look. What if what you see is a dead, lifeless version of your mother? Your mother who was FUCKING FINE YESTERDAY!!! No, she wouldn’t do this to me.
The demon man pokes his head back in and says we can see her. I want to stab his head viciously, with small pointy utensils, and carve out his tongue with a painfully blunt object like an ice-cream scoop. Surprisingly, my heavy non-existent body gets itself up and pads unfeelingly toward the door. I am walking through an active corridor into a room of many humans, rushing around, illuminated in dazzling bright lights, making funny shapes and sounds. I am ushered into a cubicle at the right end of the huge room, with blue curtains placed lazily around it. The thin white and blue curtains are pulled callously aside.
She is in the centre of the space, lying on a white bed. It is her. Oh fuck, it’s her! It really is her. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!!! It’s her. It’s fucking her! Oh my god, it’s her! Fuck!! Fucking hell, it’s her!!! It’s actually her! That’s my mother!!! My body freezes up with the intensity of overloaded emotions tearing ruthlessly through it. I hear my aunty let out an anguished sob. She begins hysterically letting her grief spill over into the lit ravines of reality. For some unknown reason my far greater grief doesn’t do that. I have a second where I don’t comprehend why it isn’t doing that. All I can do is stand and stare.
I hear the thin curtains being pulled behind me. They have left the three of us alone with her – with only a thin veil of curtain to shroud me from the rest of the unfeeling world, which, from the sound of it, has the sheer audacity to continue on. The thin curtain is all that separates me and my hellish realm from the normal world where everyone else lives. I don’t belong there anymore. I will never feel that world again. It is lost to me. I painfully know it in my soul.
All I can do is look. It is her. It really is her. Fuck. Fuck me. It’s her! It’s mum. It’s really mum. Fuck! Oh fuck!!! I stumble forward. I float towards her body as her face comes into view. I flop into a little metal chair, propped harshly next to the left side of her bed. Ross stands behind me, quivering with violent emotions that shudder through the air of the tiny, yet infinite space. My aunty moves to the right side of the bed and gazes down, uncomprehending, weeping and staring, staring and weeping. I see the shadow of her tiny frame standing there. It is an unreal silhouette, imbued with vivid colours. I am sitting. Somehow I am sitting. I find myself in a seated position, in the harshly placed metal chair, though I don’t remember how I got there. Ross’ hand is on my right shoulder.
I look at her. I just look. I take her in. I drink her in. My mother. Fuck, this is my mother! This is MY FUCKING MOTHER!!! I feel the first sickening pang of sadness creep insidiously up and grasp ferociously at your weakened, bursting heart. I know that if this feeling is any remote indication of the feelings that are to come that I will surely die from the pain. She is so bloated. Laying there. With no life inside her. Or is there? Maybe she’s just in a coma. She’s not really dead, is she? Look. Look harder. Search. Search with everything you have in you! Look for some sign of life!? I’m here now, so you can give me some sign. Give me some sign that you’re still in there!
She is so bloated. So pale. There’s a cut on her forehead. So pale. She is so pale and lifeless. A white sheet drawn coldly up to her chest. Her arms lying flat either side of her. Her eyes closed. Her beautiful blue eyes, closed. Open. Open. Please open. You have to open. Open!!! You are blue and you need to open!! I need to see you!!! I need you to open your eyes!
They are so closed. They have no colour. They will never open again. They are closed forever now. A pang of hot pain searing me. Her lips, sternly shut. Blue lips. They are blue. Blue. They’re fucking blue. People turn blue when they die. Fuck, they’re blue! Oh my god, they’re blue!!! She’s dead. She’s really dead. Fucking unwelcome blue, how dare you rear your ugly unwanted head here! Panic is surfacing in shining silver armour. Yes, it’s true. This is real. Panic! Starting to panic. Can’t breathe. Can’t live. Impossible … impossible to carry on. Blue. No, it can’t be. Real true reality blue agony searing hot true impossible look vague grasp ripping apart.
My eyes soak it all in. The image of her … what was once my mother. But she still is my mother. Mum? Mummy??? My eyes – my huge, soaking, uncomprehending eyes travel down from her face to her bloated belly. I don’t understand why her belly looks so big. My eyes move to her right hand – her tiny, delicate, beautiful, exquisite and now PALE hand. Her little hand, so like mine. Now pale. Lifeless. Her pale, lifeless little hand, so like mine. I got my hands from her. Her fingers are going white as I watch in terror. The gold and garnet ring that her mother gave her rests gravely on her fourth finger. My god … that’s the ring she selected today. That’s what she put on this morning. She picked it out, and she got ready, and she had her cup of tea, and she went to work, and she fucking died! She died wearing this ring. This is the ring she died in. She has died. She is dead. I can see it. Without any control, I see my tiny hand, so like hers, quivering, as it reaches out in search of hers. My hand rests on top of hers. I feel a wave of sickeningly insidious pain flow through me as I begin to break. She doesn’t feel very cold yet. Cool, but not cold. She hasn’t been dead for long. There is still a bit of warmth. Pink dappled warmth. But it is draining out of her. No. It can’t. Please. Please stay in there. I would give anything. Anything at all if the warmth stayed in there and stopped taking what little life she had left. She is being taken from me. I can physically feel it in the temperature of her tiny hand. She is going … seeping away. Without so much as a goodbye. Oh my god, I didn’t even get to say goodbye! She just died. She just fucking died. She just said, ‘Goodnight, I’ll see you tomorrow’, went to bed, woke up, got ready, went to work and fucking died! No time to talk. No moment to say goodbye. Nothing. Just taken.
It cannot be. This is way too unfair! An injustice. The biggest and most callous injustice the world has ever conjured up in its staggeringly long existence. And it is happening to me. It is my fate. No goodbye for me. No last words. No last chance. No last farewell. No last embrace. No fucking last anything because the end came out of fucking nowhere! Nowhere!!! That can’t happen!!! It doesn’t happen to people! It simply doesn’t happen full stop!!!!! How can people just be taken???!!! How do people just die???!!!!!! They are fine, and then they just fucking die – they drop dead???!!!!!!!!!
The outrage smothers me with its striking and irrefutable truth. I need to get out. I have to get out of here. Get out get out get out! Get out. GET. OUT. NOW. Have to leave NOW! It comes out of my mouth without me even realising it. Movement toward the curtains. Pull stupid curtains aside. Buzzing activity of humans, swarming in their communal engagement in the meaningless tasks of daily life. Must get out. Suffocating. Dying. Walking. Somehow I’m walking towards the emergency doors. The demonic doctor man coming unwelcomely into focus. Lips moving. Someone has to officially identify the body. Police. Coming. Statement needed. Have to get out. Can’t stay. Can’t identify body. Must leave. Must find alternate reality. MUST OR WILL DIE! Aunty Anne volunteers to stay. I feel a surge of relief. I fumble toward door. Open air. Sunlight blasting. Space. Air. Warmth. Sun. I desperately need a cigarette. I walk toward the car-park indifferently. Hazy existence. Unknown destination. Anywhere but here. Somewhere. Somewhere else it will be better. No it won’t, and you know it. It will never be better. It’s gonna hurt like fucking hell and somehow you’re going to have to find a way through it. Smoke. I need to smoke. Walking. Mumbling to Ross about need to smoke. Hope he understands. Wouldn’t have considered it before because of the baby. Need it now. MUST HAVE IT NOW. MUST SURVIVE. Impossible reality seeping in but MUST survive. Murky blue rapids surging through my mind as I desperately try to form some plan as to how the fuck I am going to survive such a hideous reality, whilst simultaneously keeping my baby alive …
to be continued