Lost, Found… Discarded, Part 3/3

I’ve lived here for many years, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how long any more – time isn’t the same once you’re dead. I don’t completely remember how I even came to be here, I just feel a connection with the place, so I stay. The family who live here, they don’t know I also do. Probably just as well, they’d think it was spooky to have a silent, unseen watcher amongst them. So it’s best they don’t know, although the boy caught a glimpse of me once; a mistake on my behalf. I hoped they would think he had imagined it, the way children do…they seemed to have forgotten that incident anyway.

I don’t want to worry them. It’s not as creepy as it may sound, hanging around them like this, it’s only that I’m lonely. I enjoy being around the living, being near the warmth of their everyday. I vaguely recall the emotions they seem to feel so sharply. I suppose you could say it makes me feel more alive, being near the force of them.

It’s winter now, and there’s a fire in the grate. The woman is sitting before it, looking into the flames. She has a name, but it never stays in my mind. Names….they don’t mean too much to me now either. I think they mean something when the lives of the people who carry them have a continuity to you. To me, though, the existence of individuals drifts in and out of my consciousness, much as they drift in and out of rooms.

The fire would be hot on her face, she is sitting so near. I can’t feel its heat, but I still watch the writhing flames. They appear more alive than me, but it’s an illusion born of movement only. How ironic. Now, though, they’re eating letters the woman is feeding them. This is curious. I remember letters. Usually they are kept if important, and discarded if not. To burn one is symbolic, the giving of a memory, or a promise, to the flame as if it were a funeral pyre. The woman opens a letter and reads it, while others burn. I am interested enough now to wonder what she is thinking. There was a man who lived here once also. I don’t remember when I last saw him, but he was with her when they first came here. There was emotion like a tumult in those days. It blew like a wind through the rooms of this house. Oh yes, I felt almost alive then. But not happy…

She crumples the last letter, the one she has read, and she puts it into the mouth of the fire without another pause, and we watch it burn.



Writing 101, Day Four: Lost, Part 1/3

I had no intention of writing about divorce, marriage, and other personal subjects, and I may never publish this post. However, today’s writing challenge has been to tackle a loss, and while I could ruminate on socks I have lost, especially favourite striped ones, and how their vanishing is as mysterious as any combination of lost planes and Dharma Inititiatives given that I am Logical and Rational and brook no nonsense fairy tales of washing machines devouring small woven items, scoff scoff, but really, the most obvious, glaring, elephantine even, loss which has been haunting me has been my first marriage. Not my first husband, I should like to clarify from the outset, but my first marriage. Not that it was a happy marriage, but it was a relationship the nature of which I’d anticipated, expected, believed, would, should and indeed had to endure a lifetime, and remain primly singular. But it did not endure, and in fact I, with my overactive conscience screaming mercy, had to be the one to call Time in the end. Reasons be damned, the fact that the sanctum was defiled is dogging my steps balefully.

It’s awfully quick and evasive for a mangy beast, this black dog, I just can’t get a bead on it to put it out of its misery. It doesn’t belong here. This here is a nice street, with tidy, painted fences, and old trees rooting the neighbourhood to the earth. The dogs here sleep off their lunches in the sun. So what is this scrawny hound doing sloping around uninvited? If I saw such an underfed and unwanted animal for real, I’d feel desperately sorry for it. I’d give it a feed and some lovin’. Maybe that’s what I need to do with my bete noir. Acknowledge it, take it in and give it a bowl and a belly rub. Quit the shoo-ing and tame the antipathy. I wonder if nemeses are open to domestication? I’m off to get a bowl – but I’ll keep a big stick behind my back, just in case.


PS. I decided to publish this post, in honour of other people who have bravely spoken about their lives and losses. If you are brave enough to be honest, I shall suck it up, and after all, I’ve read some of yours, it’s only fair.


Letter to my cousin on his birthday

So, D, today would have been your birthday. I think your mum and dad would have liked to celebrate it somehow, but seeing as it’s also your brother’s birthday this week, it was kind of awkward.

Does a dead guy even have a birthday? I hadn’t really thought about that before. M thinks it would be weird, but then he doesn’t rate birthdays much anyway, even his own. But I do, both see the point in birthdays and in keeping yours somehow, at least in the first year or two, while your parents are getting used to you being gone.

Did you see everyone at your funeral? The place was full. Your mum wanted it to be a celebration of you, but it was hard to impossible to make it a joyous occasion, on account of the whole you being dead thing. My brothers cried, dude. Even that daggy friend of your brother’s, weeping, when he’d only met you twice, because you were such a nice guy and he couldn’t believe someone so kind could have wanted so badly to leave. There were a lot of people who said that, did you know? By the way, what did you think of how they did your make-up? I thought it was a bit overdone, and wondered about the eyesight of the old undertaker, but then I got to thinking, maybe he did know what he was about. I bet you didn’t think about that in your calculations; how grotesque you would look just being dead, despite your choice of exit, and at a young and beautiful age.

But you didn’t see any of that, because you weren’t there, not at all. That coffin was a lead weight, but it was empty of you. Hopefully for your sake you’re off frolicking among the stars finding your bliss and the answers to all your questions, but we aren’t, you git.

Was it even your decision to make? Before, I would have said a person’s life is their own, one way or another, but now – We will never be the same. Your decision changed all of the people who loved you. When you’d first gone, I caught myself waiting for something to happen to shift the pain, and I realised – there was nothing to happen. Yes, we have indeed picked up and gone on, as I’m sure you knew we would, but not as wholly as I think you assumed. Even your mum goes on about her daily life, puts on her smile with her lipstick in the morning, but she’s not ok. How could a mother whose child slips out of her hands ever be ok again.

I know they say time heals all wounds and all that, but only imperfectly, only in the sense of growing skin over the hurt and leaving the scar. You may have escaped your pain, but you left it behind with us.

I’ll say goodbye now, D. There’s not much else to say without completely spilling my guts and telling you things like how we still had foolish hope, right until we couldn’t any more, how the pain of hearing you’d done it was physical, how we had thought if you could make it up here, maybe we could save you. This will probably be the last letter I write to you, because it doesn’t seem like there’s much point in writing to dead people. I just wanted to say I miss you, and I wish you could have held on.


DCO 1/6/86 – 14/1/14 RIP



Talking Death

Axolotls & Oxymorons

This post talks about death and suicide. If this is a painful topic, please do not read on.


“Why” is the question most commonly associated with premature death, but it’s not the one that sticks in me.

Four months ago, my cousin killed himself. He was young enough to have a whole life ahead of him, and for him, that was not reassuring. I know why he did it; it wasn’t completely out of the blue. Except death always seems unexpected, probably even when you are expecting it. So while he was missing, even though in some ways we had to know it wasn’t something that was going to end well, there was still something like hope, until there wasn’t any more. And then there was shock, as if there had been the possibility of another outcome, poor fools. And also grief. And the sense of being too late…

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