I felt so much love for my mother, but standing there seeing her like this she was not my mother. She was dying, they told me, and I was to kiss her goodbye. They insisted and so despite my reluctance I shut my eyes and kissed her. I had just turned fourteen.
It happened like this. I was late home from a detention after school. It was always a mission getting home, and this had meant another hour added on. My older brother had found my mother instead of me, and called for help. It seemed so sudden, even though a few months earlier my mother had told me the doctors had given her six months. She had lived for two years.
In the kitchen fridge on that day she had left behind evidence of her creativity and care. A new dessert recipe – a row of gingernut biscuits jammed together with whipped cream and put into the freezer compartment. What had happened between that loving act and her slipping into unconsciousness?
But she hadn’t looked like my mother. It’s still a blur and I can’t remember exactly why I recoiled — it was just not my mother lying there. Over the following days her body remained in her bedroom and I was able to sit beside her. She was loved by the community and it was a mark of respect for her to remain at home in an open casket.
After she had gone, I would go into her room at night before bed and smell her pillow. Her scent was reassuring and triggered a sense of her that I could hold onto. There in that womb like pink bedroom with the curtains drawn to the closing of the light.