Chantal Stewart

Mother

Memory and presence. They say that memories comfort you, eventually. But how do memories, which are thoughts conjured up and filtered through one’s perceptions, make up for the reality of a living, breathing person? They do not capture the nowness of a gesture, the waft of air as she raises her arm, the almost imperceptible clearing of her throat and the slight nervous inbreath before talking. They do not capture the smell of her after a warm bath, after feeding the dog, the smell that lingers on her scarf. And they do not compensate for not hearing her voice, picking up the phone to it, opening the door to it, feeling the presence of it.

Hospital bed, crisp and clean. Bedside table with glasses and long white cord with bell ring at the end. Your breathing. Oh, your breathing. And so cold. But I was reassured because you spoke to me when I spoke. Woke up and opened your eyes. But I was wrong. I got it wrong. I should have stayed. I should have stayed to hold your hand.   I wanted to be there for you, but I was so scared. Scared to look you in the eye, knowing what was wrong, and not tell you.

It is impossible for us to understand death because it is the cessation of the mind. All we know from the moment we are born is the mind. How can we think of not having a  being to think with? So we conjure afterlives. We hope for a way of understanding death, not as the end, but as a different state. This state cannot be annihilation, so it has to be a different state of life, we tell ourselves.   A Heaven. A  Hell. A parallel existence.

You are here with me in my dream, but I cannot touch you. I can see you, but with a different kind of sight. Stay with me in this fever dream. We walk through the flowers together. You are wearing your blue dress. I realize how much we both wear blue. And black. You say that you are more adventurous than me though. I would never wear orange and bright green, though I sometimes wear red. Oh, the times we have had! Remember Miami in the hot, drenching tropical rain  and Bristol in the snow, and eating ice-cream beside fountains in France. Remember the tears in your eyes when you saw me in a wedding dress and the joy of simple Sunday lunches and opera  and piano playing. We can have that again in this dream. You can hold me again.

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