I have just left the hospital. I have just seen my mother’s lifeless body; my mum who was absolutely fine last night. I am in a car whizzing past life. Other cars and people are going about their business. How can they do that? They have so much audacity that I want to torturously destroy their very essences. My whole world has come to a standstill. Time does not exist. It is all futile and meaningless. Something extraordinary is happening. The world has suddenly shifted. Nothing will ever be the same. She is gone. My life will never be the same. I now have to live a life without her. Without her. Forever. For the rest of my natural life. Life as it was this morning is gone. It will never come back. It is as dead as her. How will I survive? Can I? I honestly doubt it.
I pull my phone out and instinctively go to call my dad. He is travelling by car in Canada with my step-mum, so I know I might not be able to reach him. I need him to answer. By some small miracle he does. I don’t know what to say, but when I hear his voice my emotions release with sudden adrenalin. The tears spurt out as I cry in a shaky voice, ‘Dad, mum’s dead. She’s dead’.
I fight to control the grief as he tries to comprehend what I am saying. ‘What?’ He too is in shock. He doesn’t believe it. ‘What? You’re mum?’
Without pause I screech, ‘She’s dead! She has a heart attack Dad … she died.’ I mumble on, ‘I’m in the car going home’ –
He immediately grasps the gravity of the situation and takes control, saying he will call me when I get home. I hang up and push the tears down into my agonised soul. I quickly text my best friend out of pure instinct … Georgia mum has died, I need you.
I find myself in my own living room – in the living room of the house that I shared with my mother. My dead mother. With a painful stab of reality I register that I need to make calls. I need to let people know. The thought gives me a wave of hideous nausea. But there is no-one else to make the calls. I’ll talk to dad first. He calls me a few minutes after I return. I tell him what has happened in as much coherent detail as I can muster. He is in complete shock. With mounting terror and desperation I say, ‘I need you to come home dad’. He assures me that he will do everything he can to get back as soon as possible. Ah, the relief is tangible. Then silence fills the house. Now I must make all the calls. I get my mother’s address book, sit down at the dining room table, with a glass of red wine and a pack of cigarettes, and try to prepare myself.
I begin to be devoid of emotion due to the hideous task ahead. I know there are so many people to tell. And I have to do it – call each and every one of them. There is no-one else to do it. I tell myself I can do this. Just dial the number, tell them, and deal with it yourself later. Then I realise I have to tell her two brothers first. A sickening, crunching feeling punches through my stomach, and my body crumples forward. I so don’t want to have to tell them. They have just lost their father, and now I have to call and tell them that their baby sister has suddenly died, without any warning. How can I do that? It will break them completely. I know, before I have even picked up the phone, that these will be the two hardest calls I ever have to make in my life. I muster what little strength I have and fumble for Uncle Chris’ number. As the phone rings I chillingly wait, praying like hell that I get Aunty Judi because I so desperately, in the deepest core of my being, do not want to have to tell my beautiful Uncle Chris that his sister is dead. I can’t hear his grief as the shocking reality rudely filters in to his unwilling and unable consciousness. Ring, ring … there is staggering white relief when I hear my Aunty Judi’s voice.
‘Aunty Judi? Oh, I’m so glad I got you.’
‘Hey Becky’ she says, but from my tone she knows instantly that something is wrong, and after a slight pause says, ‘What’s wrong?’
My heart is pounding. ‘I have bad news’ –
‘Okay,’ she replies hesitantly.
Silence. ‘What? Your mum … as in Ellie?’
Silence. ‘No, no Beck. Oh no, El? No, oh beck, oh no, not El!’ She is heartbroken.
‘Is Chris there?’ I ask.
‘Ah, no, he’s at work. Oh god Beck. I’ll … I’ll drive in and tell him … oh god, Beck …’
I say I’ll be in touch and hang up. I don’t envy her in her task. She has to go in to BP and tell her husband that his little sister is dead. I feel sick. But I have to keep going. I don’t have a choice. I decide I will call Trudy and ask her to tell her dad – Uncle John. I dial her at work.
‘Trude, I have bad news.’
‘Have you lost the baby?’
‘No, no, the baby’s fine … It’s mum -’
I can feel the frozen fear grip her, ‘Yeah what?’
‘She died Trude.’
‘What?! Oh no, no, no, no Beck. Oh no, not Aunty Ellie! Oh my god …’ She bursts into tears. She is hysterical. I hear and feel her pain radiating through the width of Australia to reach and engulf me. Through her agonised tears she says she will drive to her dad’s and tell him. She promises to call later.
More sanity is stripped from me. I draw back hungrily on my cigarette. The two most important calls have been made. The family knows. Who’s next? I think of Denise – her best and dearest friend. With heavy heart I call her mobile. I tell her as calmly as I can. She begins sobbing in disbelief. She can’t talk. She hangs up on me, unable to process the shock. I call Debbie-with-one-leg. I ask her where she is. She is at the hairdresser’s. I say mum has died. She says nothing. Then she murmurs, ‘But, she can’t be.’ I have to convince her that it is true, but she is completely numb with disbelief. She won’t believe it and hangs up. I try Saran in London, but I can’t get him. I won’t leave a voicemail, I must tell him myself. I sit, with my head in my hands and try to think of who else I must notify immediately.
Then I think of Eric – the man my mum loved her whole life. I send him a message asking him to call me. I really don’t want to have to tell the love of her life that she has died. Meanwhile Debbie calls me back to ask if I’ve made a mistake. Then she begins crying and apologises for not asking if I am okay. I cannot get emotional. It is too much.
Other people get the news from people I have told and call sporadically to verbally express their shock and horror. It snowballs. I am moving in a vortex of practicality. My cousin Lara rocks up at the door with a tear-streaked face. Aunty Anne and Georgia are not far behind her. I say to Georgia, ‘Don’t hug me’ as she gingerly approaches me. I am still making calls. Still trying to be practical. I am attending to the matter at hand. I am doing anything to avoid the reality of the sheer and unfathomable depth of my own grief.
Other people are here to but I don’t really see or hear them. The police come to take a statement. Two policemen come in and sit at my mother’s dining table. They ask me questions about her – about her heart condition, about her recent life, about any illnesses they may need to know about. They say that they have to take a statement for the coroner whenever someone dies suddenly. There will have to be an autopsy. My heart shrivels up into a pip of lifeless ash. They leave.
Just keep moving … family members call back to make hazy arrangements … we will organise the funeral in Bunbury … I contemplate the funeral. I work out all the things that need to be done. All the while my mind is torturously trying to get a grasp on what it is being made to do. I make vague plans. I organise things. Ross and I agree to go down to Bunbury the day after next to organise everything. I drink a few glasses of wine. I feel so guilty at the necessity of the wine and the cigarettes, but I don’t know what else to do.
After all the calls are made I sit around, smoking and drinking, with Ross, Lara and Georgia. In the vibrant aftershock we manically discuss things and laugh at memories and the audacity of the entire situation. We are all delusional. We are a mass of grieving hearts, caught in a delirious, maddening, shock-laden grief. There are no tears. It is too raw and sudden. There is laughter – mad, terrifying laughter. But no tears. Not yet.
In the corners of my mind I know that tomorrow will be a different story entirely. I know that I will have to wake up. I will take a few moments to remember the heinous reality I am currently in. I will remember that she has died. And then, somehow, I will have to try to find a way through the day and survive the future.
The reliving of this vivid, haunting memory is almost too much to bear. I can’t believe it has been a year since that day … that hideously unbelievable day. The day that changed my life forever. It still feels like yesterday. I remember everything in such painful clarified detail. It still sickens me to the core.
But then I think about my son, and my soul begins to open itself into a smile. He is my salvation. I cannot wait to go home and hold him in my arms. I only hope that the memories he has with me compare to the beauty of those I shared with my mother … my mother whom he will never know. The thought still makes me weep with unbearable sadness. There are so many beautiful memories. We will not make any more. She is gone forever. And no matter how much I write I will never be able to articulate just how much she meant to me – just how much I loved her.
My love for her swells in me. It makes me remember the eulogy I wrote for her. The one I was determined to deliver, despite the fact that I had lost my voice. My testimony of what she meant to me. My words of love for her…
What a muse! What an indescribably beautiful and glorious muse! But what a task! A task that has fallen suddenly into my pregnant lap before its time was fated.
How do I write? Yes, admittedly, I am somewhat of a gifted writer, one of my many talents, as I’m sure my mother has boasted about to each and every one of you many a time.
But now that she is taken from me, from this life that she adored, off on her next fabulous adventure that we cannot yet join her on, how do I find the words? How do I find words that convey anything other than the sheer and raw acuteness of grief? But if I don’t, if I cannot find them, if I cannot produce beauty on these pages that I’m frantically scribbling on, to be shared on this day, as a true testament to her monumental beauty and extravagant glory, then she is selfish enough, and powerful enough, to haunt me until I wholeheartedly swear to do her memory justice, and promise to live well. And by that I mean, according to strict Ellie standards, to live ecstatically, joyously, indulgently, greedily, vainly, boldly and honourably.
It is a day after she has left us. I am in a beautiful gown to honour the huge majesty of her memory, as whispers of Barbara Streisand echo through my now empty home. Empty, but full of her, of her love, and of the love of all that knew her. My thoughts are haphazard. Abundant. Beautifully cruel. Abstract in their haunting beauty.
My monumental mother. Happiness laden bubbles bursting with pink fullness lifting the gloom off the wallowing world.
Gushes of illuminating glitter glorifying the earth, dazzling humanity with frightful brilliance.
Tacky, gaudy laurels encrusted with multi-coloured jewels settling stubbornly on our forlorn shadows
Golden trellis manifesting endless fuschia flowers spreading suddenly and majestically, enveloping our lives with grandeur.
Her hand, so like mine, delicate and tiny, upon my swelling stomach, feeling her grandson dancing.
Rapturous joy emerging from smiling lips chattering away at a velocity rivalling the speed of light.
Bouncing around the globe like a radiant pink bejewelled sponge. Greedily soaking up the touch, feel and scent (not to mention any local cocktail) that particular corner of the world had to offe
Blooming petals of zestful consumption with life buffeting forth, showering the ground with pink zirconias.
Enduring spirit of rose scented generosity and warmth seeping through the veins of those left behind in this earthly realm.
Tappy tap tap. Writing more text messages with one finger than a school girl with a crush.
Bursting forth into existence. Hitting the world like a violent slap of magenta joy.
Mould me into the perfectly fragile soul I am. All my greatness crafted in the image of you.
Wrap me in the comforting solace of your maternal love. ‘It will be okay darling’.
Perched on the rocks, watching the breakwater crashing poetically. The graceful breeze on the veranda. Wash my soul. Cleanse and rejuvenate me. Give me the strength to live like she would want me to. Give me the capacity to venture out, without fear, doubt, or reservation, into the next phase of my intoxicatingly and cruelly beautiful existence.
What will she become? My Grammy is a rainbow that graces us with beauty. My Gramps is a little wooden dingy resting serenely on the gentle waves, waiting patiently to bring a family joy. But my mum? A dingy or a rainbow won’t suffice. Neither will a rose. Not even the most insanely arrogantly glorious pink one. No. She has to be bigger. Much bigger. Surely she has to be the sun. Providing a beacon of light to all humanity. But still able to burn you should you indulge in her too much! But, nonetheless necessary to sustain life, to promote joy, to cheer a lost heart. A pink dappled sunset. That’s it. At that majestic moment in the day when pink washes over the sky at sunset – that will be her in all her glory. Impossible to ignore. Monumental in beauty.
Exult me to the heights of greatness. Recognise the purity, strength and beauty in me and inspire me to deliver it to the world every day of my life.
May the pure vitality of her soul radiate into mine and pour out through the laughter and delight of my experiences yet to come. The heart that was made full through being her daughter, the greatest honour on the planet, will be made whole again through the glittery, iridescent and fruitfully abundant memory of her, and the magical life inside of me that is about to manifest into the world, wearing fragments of the most exquisite heart and soul I have ever known.
Wait for me, in the light of utopia. Tell me ecstatically of your journey beyond, and I will tell you of my earthbound one. And hand in hand we will roll with laughter down the hill into the gardens of our next adventure in the bliss of heaven.