Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Who brought the lavendar?

White lillies covered the coffin. Were they Christmas lillies? It was Christmas after all.

In between, just peaking out, were the lavender buds. Who had put them there? And why?

As she moved close to the coffin, lining up to receive a little Communion, the urge to pluck some lavender was strong. A frantic thought to distract from the sorrow.

The priest had a voice like the film reviewer, the one whose brother is a famous actor; a soothing voice, a voice of wisdom. How interesting. You could sound wise just by the timbre of the voice. Note to self: make a conscious effort to speak at a lower tone.

As people shuffled back to their seats, the Catholics re-joining their non believing brethren for the day, a screen at the front of the church powered up. Images from the dead one's life began to flow, the smiling, happy faces of camera times - births, marriages, parties, dress-ups, restaurants, dead fathers, 15-year-old tennis pros. Is this the sum of us? The snapshots from holidays, the frozen grins from the happier days?

Funny how we don’t take shots of the meaner times – the day our dad dies, the moment we lose the job, the meeting where we get the diagnosis, the point where love is lost. A very different slide show!

Chubby doll-like arms, a blunt, short fringe, the baby on the soap powder box - visions of the gal some 50 years ago. Faces on the screen were faces in the crowd too. The images held power, such power … hot, stinging, tissue-wielding power. A whole row, five from the front, wiped their noses and the pregnant girl on her own, at the end, the one with crutches, swiped across her face with a broad, open palm. She had no tissue.

So many faces, so many smiles, so many showers and new outfits and vacuumed rugs and cleaned toilets and fresh flowers and milk in the fridge and last minute panicking. So many things that make up a life of having friends and entertaining and going out and laughing loud and making tomato relish and working hard each day. Is this the sum of us?

Maybe so and what’s the problem? The sum is the hole we leave behind. The hole, not the whole. The quick punch in the guts we deliver, unexpectedly, to a few dozen people who see a photo, smell a smell, hear a song and think of us, they know we're gone. The sum of us is the hole, the gut punch, the unexpected tear or the wry, cheeky smile, the message of the lavender is what we leave behind.

Monday, December 11, 2006

choke on it

She picked up a piece of the chocolate cake and pressed it hard against his closed mouth.

"I hope you fucking choke on it," she said.

"You're a nasty piece of work Hannah. You better get out of here before I fucking belt you. You've gone too far this time."

In another room, the phone rang. He went to it.

"Matt speaking" she heard him say as she grabbed her keys and handbag. Her hands shook as she started the car. The radio and the aircon were blaring from her last drive. Where was she going?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Missing the party

She did that great thing; that thing where you flick the tobacco off your lower lip, using your thumb and your pointer finger. She loved that move.

She looked across at him, at the slackness beneath his chin, at the whiskers he'd missed at the corner of his mouth.

"I fucking hate you," she thought.

She inhaled deeply on the cigarette, felt it heat her lungs, fill them up like a microwave and a popcorn bag. Little black kernels probably lay at the bottom of her lung, like they do in every shitty popcorn bag.

"So you'll miss the party then, if you go I mean. You won't be coming to the party."

"Yeah I'll miss the party. No big deal is it?"

"S'pose not. I was organising it for you though."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The gift is returned to the sender

Religion must be an amazing thing; true faith I mean.

Sitting in a church, staring up at Saint Someone in the stained glass windows, I pondered how truly fabulous, how reassuring and comforting rock solid faith must be. I envy it.

As grown men quietly brushed away stray tears and hankerchiefs were gripped in worried hands, surely true faith would wipe away all this sorrow? After all, how can one grieve if one knows that those who have died have finally moved on to the most joyous, peaceful, beautiful place we can imagine?

You can dip into pretty much any faith or formalised religion and find succour, find something worth listening to, something to take away, stroke, rub against your soft cheek.

"The gift is returned to the giver" - that's what I heard as I looked at Saint Someone in her stained glass prison. God made us and, when the time is right and we've done what he needed, he takes us back. An interesting concept no?

At the time I was really blown away; I mean, it's kind of beautiful. After all, the gift of life is a little more special than eau de toilette or a pair of thongs and a $10 note that a grown man recently told me he got for his 39th birthday.

Since then, however, I have thought some more. Taking the gift back? Hmmm, some might say it's a kind of miserable thing to do. Others might say it's never a gift in the true sense, it's more of a loan!