John Marsden Writing Topic #524

Show how someone’s feeling by the way they react to the place they’re in**


I don’t want to be here.

I didn’t want to step foot inside, I held onto the doors hoping that it would keep me from facing reality, but my older brother and nephew took my arms and gently led in me in.

There are rows of chairs almost completely filled, representing every person in my mother’s life. I’m glad there are so many, it makes me feel a little less alone.

Then I saw it.

I saw the coffin. The last time I see my mother and all I see is a brown, polished, wooden box containing her 67 year old body, taken away too young by cancer. A box that would soon be burnt staring right at me. I knew this would happen, when I was seven and my Nan died and she was cremated, I asked my mum bluntly in my childlike innocence “mummy will you be burnt like Nanny one day?” I never forgot the shock on her face and her refusal to answer.

Why did she have to leave me here all alone?

I took a seat in the front row alongside my younger brother and his wife. The minister went through the obligatory motions before my older brother delivered his eulogy. How could I keep it together when he couldn’t?

My sister couldn’t make it, her words seemed hollow by comparison, especially when delivered by the minister.

The obviously-made-for-funerals music played and her coffin was lowered to God-knows-where (he can keep that secret to himself) as the funeral directors bowed. I bowed internally to her too–I bowed to her for giving me life, bringing me into this world after 20 hours of labour, raising me and my four siblings single-handedly, loving us and eventually her grandchildren with love and without condition, her sense of humour and her fight against cancer to live the first time only to be conquered a second time, way too hard and way too young.

I said my silent goodbye and my heart again asked my brain the question that it has been asking my whole life. Why the fuck did she decide to smoke in the first place? I know she didn’t know the risks back in her day but still…why?


Why did my mum have to die?


**Reference: Marsden J 1998, Everything I Know About Writing, Pan Macmillan, Australia.

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