Saturday, 28 July 2012


If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the the grass grow and the squirrel's heartbeat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. 

George Eliot, Middlemarch

I keep expecting that Georgina's death will come to mean something, to be understandable.  That I will suddenly have a revelation. Despite the fact that I believe that there is no reason, I still hope that it will all become clear. Ah ha, I will think to myself, THAT is why it happened. THIS is why she only got to live for three and a half days and why I'm still sitting here, plodding along on day 12,113. And I will have no need to be angry or sad any longer.

I'm still angry and sad. Just for the record. But they are dry, dessicated echoes of what they once were. Like something dried up and caught in my lung. Wheezing away. Blew away.

But Georgina's death is like an un-hemmed piece of fabric, as my fingers worry away at it, strands of meaning fall away. I can't help but think that, if only I had left it alone, I would be able to see the neat pattern that my fretting has disturbed.

I long for an explanation. For meaning. For reason. Although I know that longing itself to be entirely without reason. Just that desperate human want, to be significant, to be of interest, to be cared for.

Perhaps we should all enter a conspiracy. That we all matter, that we are all cared for, that all of our children matter and are cared for. Who would be worse off for that? I'm game if you are?

Sometimes I feel as though everything else around me buzzes. Insignificant, meaningless things catch my eye and I have a momentary feeling of, 'Ha, THIS is the key. This is what means something.' And this could be anything, a fragment of a passing conversation, the sad expression of that woman's face as she sits on the wall, angry words tumbling out of my mouth, photographs I am too frightened to look at,  the buzzing of the fluorescent supermarket light, the colour of my daughter's hair, the colour of my other daughter's hair, this place with its tumbling, jumbling words.

All a waste. An incessant jabbering. A slow erosion of sense.

A mad woman, stumbling from one pile of rubbish to another. Reserving the best for her bag of carefully selected and hoarded possible meanings.

These worldly, word-ly things. They roar at me. I want to roar back.
"Tell me, what do you mean?"
But I'm too tired.


We drive.

The sun is setting. Black silhouettes flit upwards.

"Oh. Oh. Birds. Look Mummy. Birds."

And the world roars and it is heard. In my daughters's ears.

"Where's my sister? Where's my sister?"

The chant after we see my own sister. And I try to explain to her that Grandma is my mummy and Auntie J's mummy. My sister.

I don't know. In the sky. In heaven. In a different place. Dead. Just dead. That is all I can say.
But I hope. How I hope.

My ears are too old to hear the resolution that you seem to hear, my dear Jessica. As your questioning subsides and you watch the birds. Contentedly. And I don't know who showed you how to be that way my love but it certainly wasn't your mother.

Sisters. Because here I am again. Here, in the late 90s, when this song was released. In 2008, crying in the night as I watched House on DVD when I couldn't sleep. Here, in 2012, not crying. But wistful. Missing. Missing my girl. And unable to do anything for her.

Love, love is a verb. 
Love is a doing word.
Fearless on my breath.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


In a book I am reading, The New Black, I stumble across the phrase anticipatory grief.

Defined by the book's author, Darian Leader, as follows: the painful realization that the object already contains the possibility of its non-existence. 

An object, by definition, contains the potential of its removal.
Object versus non-object.
Georgina versus the space that might have contained Georgina.
Myself versus the absence of me.
Because everything has impermanence built into it on the factory floor.
Like those clever washing machines that break down the day after the guarantee expires.

I often wonder why the loss of Georgina is so very, very painful to me.
Why, I believe, the loss of a child has a different quality to other bereavements.

I have grieved for the loss of others. For uncles, aunts, grandparents, friends. For relationships, friendships, love affairs, gone wrong and sour.
I have anticipatory grief for my parents who I expect, naively, to die before me.
As a child, one of my deepest fears and recurring nightmares was that my younger sister would be snatched away from me. In dreams she was engulfed by a giant manta ray, stolen by a tramp, taken by eagles and, on one memorable occasion, borne off by a motorbike riding pterodactyl.

Those dreams are probably the closest thing I have to a fore-runner of my grief for Georgina.
I mourn for her as if she were already dead because love and fear of her loss were always closely bound up in my relationship with my sister. I have mourned her for as long as I was aware of her existence.
Perhaps because she is my only sibling. And if she were to die, I would be alone. Alone with my parents? Alone if my parents died?
Who knows what caused the panic to set in. But it was the loss, at the heart. I could not bear to lose her. Because I love her so. And my brain seemed to need to conjure up scenarios where I did. Maybe in the interests of toughening me up. Didn't work.

The author describes the phenomenon of anticipatory grief as a distancing, often occurring in relation to one's parents. The parent ages, the inevitable approaches and, so, the child withdraws. Perhaps to preserve the parent as the all powerful, caring, strong image that is so important to the child. Even when the child is grown up. Because we don't want to see our parents, our mother, our father, doddery and uncertain and infirm.

I read about this so-called anticipatory grief and thought to myself, huh? Bunk! Who does that? Who retreats when their parents get old and ill? Surely it is the other way? We run towards them rather.

But oddly, in conversation with a friend of mine, anticipatory grief reared its head, sneakily. And I thought, ha! You might be being subtle and trying to snake past me but I see you, Mr. Anticipatory Grief. And now I have read BOOKS on the subject I can even name you for what you are.

She said, 'oh well I don't want to become too reliant upon my mother for companionship because, one day, she'll be gone. And if she was the only person I visited every day, imagine how I would feel when she died.'

Suddenly this strange thing that I didn't really believe in was right there. Waving about in my face. My friend distancing herself from her mother in anticipation of her mother's death. My friend who, was actually far closer to death a year ago than her mother has been as yet. Interesting, the dry, theoretical part of my brain observes.

But we don't experience, at length, anticipatory grief for our children. I experienced three days of anticipatory grief for Georgina. Three days when I knew she would, in all probability, die before me. Nobody conceives their children expecting that. It's always comes at us from the left-field. Because you only have months of preparation, at best. If best could ever be the right word.

I don't dream about my sister dying, not these days.
Perhaps I am now, at peace, with impermanence.

Hah! Who am I kidding?

But I don't think I would distance myself from death, from the process of dying.
Not now.
If Georgina taught me anything it is not to turn away.

I find that I am now interested in death. Not in a morbid gothic way. Not in a ghost-y spooky way.
But in that way that, should Jessica become interested in horse-riding, I would become interested in horse-riding. Jessica is interested in ladybirds. As a result, I keep an eye out for books related to ladybirds. Clothing with a ladybird theme.

One of Georgina's defining characteristics is her dead-ness. Thus, I am interested in death. I don't want to distance myself. I want to sit in graveyards and feel at peace. I want to read books about mourning. I want to know what anticipatory grief is.

I want to be closer to death. Not necessarily my own death. But I want to be on nodding terms. With my own death, my husband's death, my parent's death. I want death as an acquaintance. He took my daughter don't you know?

My husband says that this is always where I end up. At death. Her death.

Just trying to get closer. That's all.

If it were up to me, there would be no distance. And that puts me somewhat at odds with the majority.

Thursday, 5 July 2012


In her book. Prior to starting infant school.

Under a drawing of 'my family' that consists of multiple purple circles.

I have _____  brother (s) who are _____ years old.
His / their names are _________________________

I have _____  sister (s) who are _____ years old.
Her / their names are _________________________

Filled in thus.

1, 1, Reuben
1, blank, Georgina. *Georgina was my twin sister who died when we were babies.

The teacher opens it. I say, "I'm sorry. I didn't want you to think that 'Baby Georgie' was an imaginary friend."

Her pretty face creases. At the asterisk I presume.

My husband is angry? I think? Angry that I wrote her name in the book. But he chokes it down.
I think that he no longer likes that name, the name that we gave her.

But what was I supposed to write?

0? Leave it blank?

This is my daughter, Jessica, who has 0 sisters? Who has ___ sisters?

I couldn't. I couldn't.

Maybe I'm wrong?

* I thought about Georgina last night. Her face. With its bruising and her eyes, her blue eyes. She just came into my mind. Unsettling in some ways. Old eyes. Open eyes. In a tiny face. Not even her. A replica of a photograph.

Perhaps I should stop asterisk-ing things? Supplying footnotes?

Do you add footnotes? How do you feel afterwards?

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


Well, that last post of mine was a little ray of sunshine wasn't it?

When Georgina died, I think I lost some of the emotional elasticity so necessary for maintaining cheerfulness in the face of the routine challenges of life. The ability to shrug things off. To imagine that everything will be ok.

Perhaps because everything can no longer be ok. Not wholly. Not now.
And that doesn't mean defeat. Or the end.
It means that something cannot be fixed. Cannot be returned.

Life punches me into a miserable shape and I sometimes stick . . . moulded there. Spine bent and head bowed. Staring in despair at my own too spongy stomach. Because my springiness has gone. I'm just soft, soft dough. Waiting for the next hit.

Greedily reaching for whatever it is that I feel might yield a small, cold comfort. Like a heavy, thick coin clutched in my hands. Food, the icy sting of the freezing cold fizzy Diet Coke, the harsh tang of wine, the rush of instant gratification in the shops, buying things for children that already have more than they can ever realistically wear or find time to play with. Sickeningly indulgent. "But it's ok." my inner justification whines, "she died. You can have that. They can have that. Take it all."

It takes me longer to recover from even a small challenge. A cross word. A car horn beeping at me. A mistake discovered in a spreadsheet. An imagined misunderstanding. Being late. Forgetting the milk. A child screaming over something unknowable and unfixable. Burst nappies. Bank account hovering into the red. A house filled with dust bunnies. Hour long commutes.

One tiny thing. And the bowed- head-bent- spine-doughy thing that is me? Bends lower. Disheartened.

All this, it mutters. All this and she is dead? Too much.

I know it isn't. The 'all this' is vanishingly important. It is the death. That makes everything else seem like the final straw.

And it takes longer. For the all the cheerful flag waving, pom pom shaking, cheering up to take hold.
But it does.

My mother used to sing to me . . .

You've got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.

And I thought it was rather too cheery, too Polly-Anna-ish for my liking.
But I didn't taste the iron, that metallic twinge like blood in your mouth.

Sometimes life knocks a few teeth out. And you are left slightly dizzy and confused and trying to maintain an upright position. With blood in your mouth and singing an annoying song. Possibly you are waving a pom-pom.

Wave one for me please. It seems I need a wee bit of cheering on. Perhaps it's August. Looming at me from behind July.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The rotten apple

Sometimes it seems only natural that my eldest daughter ended up ashes.
What I should have expected.

I start so many things. With good intentions.
For a while, I may even be proud of them.
I hold them close to my heart and wave them around when I'm feeling sad.
Cheery flags that proclaim that I can't be all that bad. Can I? But . . . but look, I've got these things.
Look at them glisten and shine.

Twin pregnancy.
A job.

But they never seem to end well. I don't know why.

What I was once so proud of seeps into my dreams.
But there is no pride there. Just hurt. Upset. Bruising.
The strange and sweaty thump of nightmares.

Birthing my ill, nearly dead children.
Friendships that didn't last.
Marriage that stumbles and slips.
Writing that is not ever what I mean it to say.
That I should have kept close instead of letting it flap around so ineptly, like a bird with a broken wing.
Or even two broken wings. In the interests of accuracy.

Things that I set out on with so much pride and love. But that, somehow, ended up in hot salt and disturbed nights. Regretted. Bitterly.

There is nothing so awful as something you thought you had done right. That you loved.
Turning to ashes.

I'm sorry. I tried so hard. I don't why it doesn't work. Why I don't work.
I'm sorry. Sorry to anyone I've ever failed or disappointed or messed up with.
Because that is never, ever my plan. Truly.
I don't set out to be an idiot.
It just seems to come very easily to me.

Because there is one common strand to all these problems.
And when you start to suspect that you are the rotten apple in the barrel?
What then?

I suppose you could try and ooze your rotten old fruity self out through a knot in the wood?
Or try and focus on rotting as quick as you could so as to do the least amount of damage possible? Squinting apple-y eyes shut tight to will on the process of disintegration.

I'm frightened. Of losing my husband and my two living children.
That I will make that fatal mis-step that seems to cost me everything else.
And I won't even know I'm making it.
Not even as the sole of my foot hits the earth.

Despite the familiar feel of the soil underneath my feet (because, lets face it, it will be far from the first time that I make contact with this particular tripping point)
Only a donkey falls over the same stone twice.
An ass. Ee-yore.

I fear that I won't even notice that I've fallen.
And it will already be too late.
Maybe I'm already there?

Georgina, I'm sorry. I love you so much. Sometimes I fear that may have been your undoing.