CONTENT WARNING: graphic descriptions of death and grief.
When I found out my mother had died, it was almost lunchtime. I was playing Mario Kart in the dining room and had just gotten to a good part. So naturally, when my phone buzzed, I was annoyed. A croaky voice belonging to my nana said, ”It’s happened, Kel. She’s gone”, as if she’s rehearsed the words a thousand times in her head but still felt strange forming in her mouth. Secretly, I was also quite relieved. I was fed up with the twenty-five minute drive to the hospital everyday.
I remember not wanting to go in and see her blue body but just like wanting to boycott her funeral, people kept reminding me I might regret my choice one day. So I went in, just as my grandmother was about to place a rose on my mother’s no longer thumping chest. I saw the petals touch her hospital provided nightgown, then I turned around and walked back out the door. The corridors were full of the sounds and smells of death. The other patients and their soon to be decomposing skin, a sickly-sweet stench mixed with the ever-familiar smell of bleach. My senses overwhelmed with the melodic monitors, clicking buttons, and buzzing screens.
There were flowers waiting for me when I got home. My house soon turned into what felt like an endless supply of flora as if I suddenly decided to open a florist in my lounge room. Roses from family, lilies from colleagues, and random assortments of blooming buds from people I did not know. I remember thinking they were pretty all bunched together. I took a snap. I deleted it though, feeling my mother’s death was not the place to profit a pretty picture. Instead, the twenty or so boxes of flowers sat on the pool table waiting until they were shrivelled enough to be transported to the bin.
I regret not dwelling in the hospital room more that day; I should have parked myself beside my grandmother who was dying from the pain of watching her youngest daughter wither away, but I was preoccupied by the things girls in their late teens are preoccupied with: my boyfriend, expensive perfumes and trying whole-heartedly to eat away my feelings.
Eight years later, each day I wake up either a little less or a little more disgusted at myself, maybe a little less or more tearful, but always a little more in mourning. My mother, now only a memory wrapped in forgotten moments and self-loathing, lives within my body. She grows with me each day as I become a little more fearful of my body.
I worry the cells circumnavigating my growing skin and muscles will do the same to me as hers did to her. And instead of rejoicing in the life of my mother, I fear her presence. I’ve dumped her in a back hole of my mind because she is no longer my sweet caregiver, the person who brought me into this world. She is nothing but a reminder of what will likely happen, and what I cannot control.