Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Cycle of Life

Ok, in an effort to avoid doing anything more constructive today, I have finished my funeral piece. But I would like your opinion before I hand it in - I want to lop off the final sentence but I'm not sure if that makes it sound unfinished or perhaps the nice abrupt halt is what it needs.

PS - it's "creative" non-fiction, I may have taken poetic licence with a few details to make it flow. (Poetic licence can also be another term for "memory loss do to aging.")

The Cycle of Life

As far as I could recollect, it was my first time inside a funeral home. It was certainly my first time as a main character in a service. There were two or three groups of two or three people standing around talking in hushed tones. The lighting was dim, which helped to camouflage the aging carpet, though bits of light glinted through the stained glass windows creating kaleidoscopes of colour on the backs of the wooden pews. The atmosphere hung heavy, smelling like old wood and stale uncirculated air.

Quiet organ music filtered through the building from some unknown source. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound... “I hate organ music,” I whispered towards my husband’s ear. He gave a little nod and patted my hand which was looped through his arm and hanging on with a grip that could be likened to a blood pressure cuff.

We entered the large double doors at the beginning of the aisle. My heart was pounding. My eyes were dry. The room was not particularly large but the aisle seemed a mile long as I raised my head and caught my first glimpse of the small white open coffin surround by dozens of bouquets of flowers.

My baby lay there motionless and peaceful looking – his tiny five-month-old body awaiting the service in which we would lay him to rest. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. As the room began to fill with people, I just stood there staring, longing to see his little chest heave with an inhaled breath, yet knowing it could not. I reached tentatively towards him and stroked his chubby fist with my forefinger.

The contact of skin on skin threw open the flood gate of tears. I thought my knees were going to give out. Someone was hugging my husband so I threw myself on the next nearest person. For some reason the feel of my brother-in-law’s scratchy wool tweed suit against my cheek, as I wiped tears and snot into his shoulder, is a moment in time that is etched clearly into my mind, even twenty five years later.

Soon we were being ushered to the curtained off section – a more private grieving space, so the service could begin. Inside, my heart was screaming, “No! No! Don’t make me leave him.” This was a stark contrast to the emotions and shocked numbness that, four days earlier, left me fleeing from the hospital after the ten mile ambulance ride and a doctor’s confirmation that it was too late.

“You have a very sick little boy,” the hospital chaplain said to the group of us who had gathered in a room somewhere off the emergency ward. By the time I arrived in the ambulance, with my husband following in the car, my parents, his parents and a brother and sister-in-law were already there.

I could not muster the strength to respond to the chaplain with the words that were ringing in my head, “He’s not sick, you dumb fuck. He’s dead.” An hour before he had been a healthy vibrant baby sitting propped with blankets in the corner of the sofa while I was in the other room dressing his two-year-old brother. He managed to squirm out of the blankets and flop over onto a nearby bag of diapers. His little five-month-old arms did not have the strength to push himself off.

I could not get out of the hospital fast enough. I wanted to run and run and run, to somehow escape this horrendous nightmare that was unfolding. I tried to remind God that death does not invade my space – it’s something that happens to other people. People far from my inner realm of love.

God reminded me that, yes, death does invade my space. It invades the space of every person who ever draws a breath. It’s part of the cycle of life. He showed me that although I will never be thankful for the experience of losing a child, others could be blessed as a by-product of the experience I had endured.

Blessing others was the furthest thing from my mind while I sat there in my wooden pew trying to figure out how to say goodbye to my son, a piece of my very own flesh. However, I was surrounded by dozens, even hundreds, of people who were there to bless and comfort me. And I opened my arms and let them. I have no idea how I could have survived without them.


Brandi said...

you made me cry. I love it just the way it is.

Anonymous said...


elzee said...

The ending is just not right - it's like it's dieseling or something.

I think I'll try it this way - it seems a little cleaner:

And I opened my arms and let them, for surely I could not have endured without them.

mari said...

I like the second way.. not really fiction though is it? I suppose the one marking it won't know that tho.

elzee said...

No Tamara, my class is "Creative NON-fiction and the Personal Essay"

It's supposed to be real life stuff.

Only Fridays, here on the blog, are Fiction Fridays (it has nothing to do with my writing class - it's just me and part of my 30 day blog-a-thon)

mari said...

Oh I mis-read. Beautifully written. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

You made me cry too... and I am at work!!! Diana

Brandi said...

okay, yes, now i agree the second ending reads better

Anonymous said...

So here I sit in my car waiting for Laura to get home, bawling!! And, I thought, oh I'll just read liana's blog while I wait- it's always good for a great laugh! And I have to go to Chili's in 30 mins to see all my students and have dinner!! You have a way with words my dear sister! Jen

b said...

wow..I came here 3 times to comment but all I do is cry too and forget what I was gonna say. I think it's a huge moment in our family's lives...Bendigo is a precious little someone we will just never forget, and I'm glad you wrote this memory out so beautifully. It brought out many more in my own heart.
Thanks xo

carmenrose said...

I think I'm in the same boat - too choked up to comment! I think you've got to be one of the bravest people I know. And I like the 2nd ending as well. Well, you know, don't /like/ it.

GraceeJ said...

Thank you.
Perfectly written.
I like both endings so I am not much help.
Actually, I really like the first one. It is very true.
You are amazing :)

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