Handfuls of rose petals fluttered down to rest on the moist soil at the side of the grave, pink and yellow tokens of affection from the few friends gathered there. Her family were long gone. She had no children. The only other people audience to her last journey were two grave diggers, sleeves rolled up, arms resting on their shovels, waiting for the event to be over so they could recommence their proper employ.
Alan was bent forward over the gaping wound in the earth where the highly polished coffin rested with his dear wife Eva safely ensconced. His lips moved wetly in silent conversation. We watched his gaunt hands shaking as he plucked handfuls of her favourite flower petals and scattered them over the gleaming perfection of the last piece of furniture she would ever own. It seemed a pity that the ornate brass handles would soon be rusting beneath the ground. Alan had spared no expense to ensure her comfort before and after her passing. She was always wont to gracefully acknowledge his efforts. The coffin interior was richly padded with silk and white velvet. Her body eroded by bone cancer had been painfully thin, a skeleton being whose eyes burned intensely fierce with a life now snuffed by her maker. We do not choose the manner of our passing, we endure.
I was her friend for twenty five years. My mother had been her closest friend for the previous twenty years. We grew close after cancer claimed my mother. I was eighteen. My mother’s youngest daughter, I was floundering in grief which pulled us together and bound us in reminisces of times past. My two elder sisters had husbands; one had two children and the other had a flourishing career that took up the time. They tucked her neatly away in a compartment labelled ‘parent passed on, sad, but it happens’ and went on with their lives. I drowned in an inconsolable ocean of grieving, that left me waking in the middle of the night my pillow wet with tears. I paced the floor of my room and the length of my flat in the early hours of the morning for months, nursing a cup of camomile tea sweetened with honey. Sipping to soothe my anxious spirit, I would collapse with dramatic gestures rubbing my forehead, grabbing handfuls of my hair and pulling on it. Tears would trickle down my cheeks and I would give way to an aching sadness that was both self pitying and destructive. I went from a healthy seventy kilos to fifty five kilos in two months. I am 185 centimetres tall.
I cried that my mother would never see me married. Actually nobody did. I am not married to this day. Relationships yes, but they all lacked something that might have made me want to spend the rest of my life with them. They had neither my father’s sturdy reliable nature nor his good looks nor did they have the devotion of Eva’s husband Alan. These were the two men whose desirable character traits I aspired to find in my potential soul mates. I cried that I could never tell her about the wonderful things that my husband would do for me.
I cried that she would never see my children. I cried that she would never play with my babies, bounce them on her knees and coo over them. I cried for the confidences that we would never exchange over tea and scones while the children played outside on toys she would buy especially for them when they came to visit. I still do not have children. Instead of looking for a man to console me and to marry me – I cried alone at the kitchen table, in the shower, sitting in the lounge room staring blankly at the TV. I would go out and cry alone in coffee shops or in cinemas or on park benches. Eva saved me from myself.
She came to my flat one night about 9.30. Rather late considering she was in her fifties and I was a young girl of nearly 19. I nearly did not open the door. It was only her voice calling out.
‘Louise, Louise, it’s me. Eva. Open up please!’ The urgency in her voice persuaded me to open the door. She was as elegant and ethereal as always. Her dark hair swept back and neatly coiffured into French roll. She was precise in her appraisal of my state. Taking a quick look at my emancipated frame and red puffy face she made some rapid decisions for both of us.
‘Get some things together. You are coming to stay with Alan and
‘Why?’ I asked her. She looked at me as if I had asked one of the stupidest questions in the history of humankind.
‘I need you. That’s why.’ She replied tartly and brushed past me. ‘You won’t need much. Dressing gown, tooth brush, undies, some cosmetics and a change of clothes. We’ll get the rest of your things tomorrow. Come on now.’ She was impatient to get underway. She later told me she had had a dream about my mother two nights in a row . In the dream my mother who was much younger was handing her a beautiful baby girl. In both dreams she had woken up in a cold sweat after she had received the baby and accidently dropped her. That was why she had come to check up on me.