Loss

Big Chief Mumma Nanna

Today I saw a piece of my writing in print for the first time.

I always thought it would be a happy occasion and something I would celebrate. Instead, today has been emotional and exhausting.

Today, we laid my nan to rest.

My first ever printed piece of writing was a poem, which I read today at the funeral.

Since it is still the first time ever that I have seen my name in print next to a piece of my writing, I wanted to share it with you.

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She Sits Alone

Girl Alone

Picture found here

 

She sits alone

Tear tracks stain her cheeks

Her eyes stare without seeing

Her heart aches with loss

She sits alone.

 

 

She sits alone

Memories make her cry

But it hurts less than forgetting

The world walks on by

She sits alone.

 

 

She sits alone

Her life is not over

Her dad would want her to smile

She wipes away tears

She sits alone.

 

Healing

When old Mrs Bishop passed away in her house two doors down from me, a surprising number of ladies appeared in our tiny village. They claimed to be here for the funeral of their “poor friend Sarah” but they could be heard gossiping and cackling with laughter all the way up the street in the days before the service. None of them seemed particularly upset at her passing and I had never seen any of them before in my life. Mrs Bishop had taken me under her wing when I was just seven. I spent every day after school in her house while the doctors and my father attended to my sick mother. She taught me about gardening and how different plants and herbs could be used for healing. My father called it “alternative medicine nonsense” but my mother took comfort in the gifts I brought home and it kept me out of the way of the carers that surrounded my mother’s bedside.

My mother passed away when I was twelve, and my father sent me to live with Mrs Bishop for a few years. He had always been a hands-on dad, but I was approaching puberty and he had no clue how to deal with me. Whilst living with Mrs Bishop she taught me the importance of being a woman, how to meditate and clear my mind, and how to make my own candles. She would put herbs or scented oils in them and taught me which scents would help with relaxation, focus, calming and energising. I found it all fascinating.

When I was sixteen I moved back in with my father. He expected me to take on the cooking and cleaning in the house, so I found myself unable to spend much time with Mrs Bishop. I missed her company. Strange things reminded me of her; cabbage, for instance. I would be in the kitchen preparing dinner for my father and I would hear her voice in my head.

“Cabbage is important for your diet, child. It will help prevent you getting sick like your mother.”

I was twenty five when she passed. The funeral was a quiet affair. I attended on my own; my father was too ill to go too. After the funeral, there was a reading of the will. I wasn’t going to go but I was asked to attend. All the strange ladies were very attentive. My attention was caught when I heard my name.

“To Miss Maria Bradbury, I leave my house, garden, money, and all of my possessions, on the understanding that she will take on my precious healing work. I also leave her my most prized possession: My walking staff”

The ladies in the room hissed in shock and glared at me as I accepted the staff from a man stood before me. An almost painful tingle spread from my hands through my whole body. As I trembled with shock, an old woman turned to me.

“Welcome to the Coven, Witch”

Que Sera Sera

In a dark corner of a village pub sat an old man nursing a pint of bitter. He was there every night without fail, just sitting and staring into the depths of his drink. He had been there for so long that the villagers no longer noticed him. It was like he was another oil painting on the wall or broken piece of furniture that everyone avoided. His hair was white and stuck out crazily around his heavily wrinkled face. He had a dark wooden cane which he used for walking; he was never seen without it. His muddy brown eyes darted curiously around his surroundings every now and then, between long periods of silent brooding. Nobody spoke to him and he spoke to nobody. Even the barman didn’t attempt conversation. He just poured the old man a pint and took the money offered silently. I looked around my new local pub, curious as to why such a sad old soul was being left to fester in the corner, ignored by his neighbours.

I’d not been living here long, but I was being welcomed like I belonged in the little village of Adstock. I had been born there, but my family had moved away when I was two so I don’t remember. My parent’s moved back here after I moved out and went to University. I went straight from Uni to teaching in a school about an hour away. I am ashamed to say that I had only ever visited my parents a handful of times in the intervening years. They had somehow always ended up coming to visit me instead. They lived in Spain now. They won some money on the lottery and bought themselves a beautiful place out there with their own pool and a balcony leading off their bedroom with fantastic views. I was now renting their house from them in Adstock. It wasn’t exactly ideal, but after my husband Matt and I filed for divorce there wasn’t much else I could do. It hadn’t been a bad breakup, there was no adultery, no recriminations, not even any arguments. Matt and I just drifted apart and didn’t know how to get back to each other. Once we had decided not to keep trying to repair the damage in our marriage, I’d said a tearful goodbye and moved out fairly quickly. It hurt so much walking away but I couldn’t face seeing him; feeling the chaotic swarm of emotions that engulfed me when I looked at him. Adstock was far enough away that I didn’t have to see anyone I knew, and nobody here really knew me.

After a few weeks, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked the barman about the man sitting in the corner. I couldn’t bear the desolate look in his eyes or the way he clung to his pint like it was some kind of lifeline. I needed to know what had happened to this poor man that he seemed to have nothing to live for. Of course I had tried talking to him first; his eyes had met mine for a few seconds before he went back to staring at nothing and ignoring everything around him. The barman took his time answering me, he frown slightly in thought and wiped down the bar absent-mindedly.

“John Walters was a scientist. He’s got some fancy letters to go after his name but he refuses to use them. He abandoned his research and went to work on a farm just outside Adstock years ago. I can only tell you the urban myth about him. I can’t tell you how much is true, or how much is exaggerated gossip, here-say, or just plain made up.” He stopped for a moment to serve someone at the other end of the bar and then came back over to me to lean against the pumps.

“When John was in his late 20’s, he was one of the most brilliant minds in the world. He might be now if he permitted himself to use it. He was given an apprenticeship with this mysterious scientific research laboratory. Nobody can remember what it was called exactly, but everyone agrees it had an obscure name like The Lab, The Science Lab, Lab of Learning or something like that. John was obsessed with time travel and rumour has it that he succeeded. At the time, John was in a relationship with a girl called Maria. Maria was beautiful, intelligent, funny, caring, gentle, cheeky, charming; everything a man could possibly want in a woman.

“Like I am sure any man would if they had the ability, John wanted to know what his life would be like in a few years time and whether he would still be with Maria. He tested his time machine on himself and went forward in time by five years. What he found broke his heart. He had married Maria and had twin girls, but she had passed away. He didn’t know how, but he had arrived in the future on the day of her funeral. He watched her mother and sister blame his future self for her death. They shouted and sobbed that it was all his fault and she would still be alive if it wasn’t for him. Understandably, John was horrified at the desolation he glimpsed on his future face. The idea that he had killed the love of his life was a terrifying one. One he didn’t think he could ever live with. He came back to his own time with an aching heart, unable to shake the misery he had seen in the future. He destroyed his machine, quit his dream job at the lab and pushed Maria away. He was afraid to get too close to her, afraid his love for her would ultimately kill her.” The Barman, Mike, broke off his story and looked up at a burst of laughter coming from across the room. It jarred, so removed from the emotion of the story I was being told, and I winced slightly at the sound. The ladies of Adstock had a book club, which was really just an excuse to have a drink and a gossip, and by all accounts were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Mike glanced up the bar to make sure nobody was waiting to be served, and when back to his story.

“The first few months were the most difficult for him. Everyone thought he was crazy for breaking up with Maria, especially because he couldn’t give her a real reason. She could tell he still loved her and tried to win him back but he was adamant that it was for the best this way. In the end she gave up trying but she never got over him and despite dating a few guys she met, nothing ever lasted. John moved away because he couldn’t bear to be near her. Three years later she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was inoperable and the doctors told her she only had a year to live. As determined as she was, she survived for almost two years. Maria’s funeral was held on that very same day John thought he had avoided. Maria was still dead, and her mother and sister still blamed him, saying that she hadn’t really lived after he left her, that she would have been more willing to see a doctor if she had been happy and if she had been seen earlier they could have operated. John was devastated. He didn’t know what to do with himself. He had avoided everyone who had even the smallest link to Maria so he hadn’t known she was dying. He didn’t know anything until he had received the dreadful phone call.

“He knew now that he had made a terrible mistake. Not only had he lost the love of his life, but he had removed 5 years worth of memories of her from his life. Worse, he had never had the opportunity to tell her exactly how much she had always meant to him. He should have married her. He should have had children with her. Suddenly he pined desperately for the twin daughters he would never know. Five years before, when he had seen himself alone with two little girls, he had been afraid. He didn’t know how to raise children alone. He never imagined he would be able to do it, let alone long to do it. He never got over the loss of his family and the realisation that he only had himself to blame for the isolation he found himself drowning in.

“He has been working on the Farm outside Adstock ever since, and lives in a tiny cottage on the farmer’s land. He comes here every night to drown his sorrows. He speaks to nobody, and believe me, many many people have tried. All newcomers to Adstock try. You are welcome to, but I don’t suppose it will do much good. You are better off just leaving him to his thoughts.”

The barman fell silent. I was staring at my glass thoughtfully, pondering all I had heard. I felt for the old man sitting in the corner, but the barman was right. There was nothing I could do for him. He was just waiting to die so he could be with his love. In my opinion, Mother Nature was being rather cruel in making him wait such a terribly long time. It also got me thinking about my own situation. I had often thought in the last couple of weeks that I would have been better if I had never met Matt. I had moved away so that I was away from everything that would remind me of him. After hearing John’s story, I couldn’t help but think back over the years I had spent with him. All the times he made me laugh, the times he held me as I cried, all those incredibly tender moments we had shared since we had first met. The thought of not having those memories cut me to the bone. There is no way I could ever give them up. Not for anything in the world. I could feel the tears start to form and my bottom lip trembled. I hastily drained my glass, thanked the barman and left. I kept my head down so that passers by wouldn’t notice the tears as they began to fall. I hurried home and picked up the phone. I hesitated for just a second, took a couple of deep calming breaths, then dialled in the phone number for my old home.

“Matt? It’s Beth. Can….can I come and see you?”

Themes

I have just completed module 1 of my creative writing course. Essentially, module 1 is all about…well…writing. The importance of writing regularly, how to go out and be inspired, and how to draw on your own experiences for ideas and themes for your stories. One of the exercises was to write a timeline of my life, with significant events marked out on it and identify recurring themes within those events. This could be anything. Births, deaths, breakups, moving to a new place, travelling etc.

At the end of the module there are a few self assessment tasks to make sure you have taken in what you have been taught so far. One of those tasks is to pick a theme from your timeline and write the opening scene of a story, a poem, or an essay supporting this theme.

I chose death and loss as my theme. (Cheerful, I know, but I wanted to pick something challenging.) this is what I wrote. Please leave comments below with what think of it, and what themes you can think of that would feature in your timeline.

I ran across the hospital car park towards the entrance to A&E with my heart in my throat. The fear and panic was bubbling up inside me and escaping in small terrified whimpers. The ambulance containing my father had already pulled up outside the doors as I scrambled out of my friend Gary’s fiesta. By the time I reach the ambulance, my dad has been whisked away through the doors. Gary catches up with me at the reception desk inside. I am a mess; tears are streaming down my face, my long wavy brown hair has been blown into knots by the wind and I am wearing Gary’s huge hooded jumper over my t-shirt and jeans. “My dad was just brought in by ambulance. His name is Andrew Parker. Can I see him?” The last on reception checks her computer and for my father and pauses, before looking up at me kindly. “The paramedics and doctors are with him at the moment. If you would like to go and sit in the family room, someone will be along as soon as they can to talk to you about your dad.” “Family room…” I mumble to myself as my head starts to spin. The family can’t mean good news. They don’t separate you from the rest of the waiting room to hear good news. I pay no more attention to the woman on reception, leaving Gary to answer any questions and find out where the family room is. He leads me off through a door to the left of the main waiting area. I walk into a plain white rectangular room with the door in the wall at one narrow end, and a plain frosted glass window opposite. It smells strongly of disinfectant in a way only a hospital can. Plastic chairs like I remember from school are lined up along the two longer walls. In the far corner there is a small square table. On it sits a pale blue plastic vase full of silk flowers in blue and white. There are a couple of watercolours on the wall, tranquil scenes of a meadow and the sea. I pay little attention to them and sit on the chair furthest from the door, staring silently at the floor between my feet. Gary sits next to me and takes my hand. It’s comfortingly warm and I look up to flash him a brief attempt at a half smile before resting my head on his shoulder and staring at the floor once more. As I sit waiting, my thoughts turn to my mum.

My mum passed away when I was 5. My parents told me that Mummy was sick and she would have to go away because she wasn’t getting better. When my mum went into hospital I didn’t understand that I would never see her again. I remember feeling confused that she was crying because she had to go to hospital. Hospitals make people better. That is what she told me the year before when I had fallen and my parents had thought I had broken my wrist. On the day of my mum’s funeral I went to my schoolfriend’s house. I remember it was a warm sunny day in early June and Katie’s parents took us to the park. We played on the swings and had a picnic on a big tartan blanket. When I was dropped off home, it was full of my aunts and uncles and lots of strangers my dad told me were mum’s friends. Everyone was sad, my dad was crying and I didn’t understand why. He told me that mum had gone away and that that was a goodbye party. I cried, then, too but I still thought mum would come back. As time passed my dad refused to talk about her. I don’t really know how I came to realise the truth of what had happened to my mum. I just know that when I was 10 a girl joined my class at school and started taunting me, saying things like “you dad picks you up from school late every day because your mum is so fat her belly wobbles like jelly when she walks.” When I could ignore the jibes no longer I glared at her, looked straight into her eyes and told her “My mum is dead.” It was the first time I had ever said it out loud.

20 years after my mum dies, here I sit in a hospital, waiting for a doctor to walk through the door and tell me whether or not my dad is okay. It’s a strange feeling; you are impatient for news because not knowing what is going on is torture. Your mind running through all kinds of possibilities and ‘what if’s. At the same time you dread the moment that doctor walks through the door in case they are there to confirm your greatest fear. I don’t even realise I am crying again until Gary puts his arms around me and pulls me close murmuring “You’ll get through this Becca. I’ll help you through this no matter what.” I turn my face into his chest and sob into his navy blue jacket. He smells comfortingly of Armani Code; my Christmas present to him. After a few minutes my tears slow again and I pull slightly away to settle my head back on his shoulder after wiping my tears away with my sleeve. He leans his head against mine and we stay that way for what feels like hours, but is probably only about 25 minutes, when the door opens and a doctor walks in. He is about 6 foot talk with black hair, going grey at the temples. “Miss Parker?” He enquires. “That’s m-me” I stutter, my voice trembling with fear. I try to stand but my legs feel weak and I fall back onto my chair. Gary stops me from attempting again and, removing his arm from around me, takes my hand again. I look up at the doctor and take a deep breath in, holding it in as I wait for him to continue. “Miss Parker, I am Dr Collins. I’m afraid your father suffered a severe myocardial infarction. A heart attack. We did everything we could but the damage to his heart was too great. I’m afraid he didn’t make it. I am very sorry for your loss.” I stared blankly into the doctor’s face, unable to comprehend. My dad, the only real family I had left, was gone. “If you would like to see him I can take you to him.” I barely registered Gary whispering “I’m so sorry Becca” as my whole world fell to pieces around me. I felt like a hole had been punched through my chest. It ached painfully. Fresh reared courses down my cheeks. I couldn’t breathe. As my mind floundered, trying to come to terms with what I had just heard, I started hyperventilating. I tried to stand once again and instantly felt dizzy and disorientated. The last thing I remember before the world went dark is the feel of Gary’s arms as he reached out to catch me.