Friday, June 18, 2010



  I don't remember much about the funeral.  All I knew was that my mother was dead and that she'd died without ever telling me she loved me or saying goodbye.

  I stood without shedding a tear.  There was to be no flaunting of untidy emotions here.

  A shattering hatred, a corrosive bitterness that would not die until I did, became part of me at that moment, falling over my shoulders like an invisible mantle of heavy dark fabric.

  The night my mother and stepfather died I entered a survival zone of counterfeit emotion.
No tears, no grief, little response at all except a carefully monitored smile and an intense desire to maintain the status quo.  If I couldn't control the external chaos, I could at least try to balance it with my internal reserve.  Silence and suppression transformed me into an emotional mannequin, frozen and ersatz.

  How could I give in to the intense emotion I sensed underneath it all when I was referred to as "the rock" of the family and was " so brave"?  Their words only served as further incentive for me to maintain a perfectly chiseled marble facade.

  I needed someone to tell me it was all right to feel the pain, the anger and the despair, to release the hot tears boiling behind my eyelids, but I received only kudos for my synthetically mature responsible behaviour.  So I avoided remembering the unpleasant aspects of our relationship.

  At the side of her casket I felt very awkward.  I wanted to reach out and touch it but I couldn't; I wanted to say something to her, even knowing she wouldn't hear me.

  All I could do was to sit back  down on the pew next to her grieving family.

  Why could I  not cry for her?  Surely I would miss her?

  She'd had her fair share of suffering through a life of unfulfilment and mediocrity.
  She was now at peace.  Unfortunately her being in a state of eternal peace had left a gaping hole in my heart.

  There was so much I needed and wanted from my mother that she had never been able to give.

  At eleven I had long accepted this truth, yet now that she was dead all the questions that had gone unanswered for so long were racing through my mind.

  Why did she beat me?  Did she hate me that much?  Was I such a bad girl?

  Why was it she never tucked me into bed and read me a story?

   Why was it she never came to school for me?  What did I ever do to her that she should treat me with such disregard?

  Why did she humiliate me, insisting I wear a nappy in public at the age of four, openly exposing my shame of having wet my bed?  Did she have any idea how awful it felt to be a little girl and have a mother who acted as if she hated her?

  Like the time she threw me down a flight of stairs and broke my nose.  Why did she have to lie and pretend it was an accident?  "Silly girl -  she tripped," she would tell everyone.

  Why did she make me eat my own vomit like a dog after  forcing me to  eat a bowl of cream knowing that I was  lactose intolerant.  Did it give her a sense of  obscure power over me?

  I was her daughter, her first- born,  I needed her to kiss me, hug me, hold me and treat me as if i was special.

  Was I ever special to you Mum?  I whispered to the casket.

  Was throwing knives at me your way of expressing this?

But now it was too late to get answers to these questions, and I felt obtrusively robbed.

  Her death was such an abrupt termination of our relationship as a mother and daughter; it evoked a tremendous amount of emotion that would eventually need to be released.
For now I would bury it deep, so very deep inside.

The shame, the anger, the hate and the fear would be safely buried unable to escape.

   Auntie Valerie, my mother's sister became responsible for the funeral arrangements.

  The attack came from misery laced with vitriol and envy.  It came like a wasp sting with drunken swaying heavy with poison.

  There were no words of condolence or love.  Instead, looking me straight in the eyes, her pointing finger almost touching my nose, she venomously spat, " I hope you're grateful for all we're doing for you.  This funeral is costing us a lot of money."

  Was I expected to pay for it?

  My mother and Aunt had had a fall out years ago, both being equally as stubborn, refusing to  back down and call a truce.  In my Aunt's eyes, I  now replaced my mother and would be the stone on which she sharpened her tongue, the object of her unresolved pain.

  She trailed her resentment around like a bad smell.

At eleven I began to feel a burden of obligation and responsibility that no one my age should have to carry.

  Reeling from her words which had stolen something solid from my world, the ability to trust an adult implicitly and feel safe in their care.

  I left her standing staring after me as I turned and walked towards the exit of the church.  A smouldering rage gnawed at the pit of my stomach that would wear many face over time.  I felt trapped in a box and couldn't get out any more than my dead parents could crawl out of their coffins.

  Grief doesn't vanish just because we try to lock it up in a sealed drawer, yet that was  how I was encouraged to cope - ignore the pain and it will go away.  

 It didn't.

  The grief found its way out anyway, seeping through my eyes, my pores.  Ultimately the thing that made me crazy isn't that my mother died but that I couldn't talk about it, couldn't even let myself think about it.  The sounds of silence left to echo without response became more haunting than the actual words.

The loss of my mother has been one of the most profound events that occurred in my life, and like a loud sound in an empty house it echoes on and on.  

Adrienne Rich of "Woman Born" has this to say. "The loss of  the daughter to the mother, the mother to the daughter is the essential female tragedy"



1 comment:

  1. so glad you have such a powerful outlet. you touch the heart and soul of all who hear you , and we are many... and profoundly grateful