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Death Is Weird
Death is weird. I'm serious. Think about it: one minute you are smiling to the woman in post office, trying to remember if you switched the iron off, and wondering when the rain is going to stop so you can get home, and then next minute you're under a bus and you can't think, or feel, or move. There's just nothing. Endless nothingness.
At least, that's how it happened to my mum. Run over by a bus, did you think that only happened in movies? I did. When I got home from school (I'd taken the bus, but it wasn’t that bus) there was someone waiting outside. A stranger; and I thought they might be either a murderer or someone trying to sell satellite TV, but then they told me.
It was weird for me as well as Mum. There was a funeral, and my dad got really depressed but then after some time and some counselling and some talking, we both started to get better. It was weird, though, without her. Very weird.
And what I'm doing right now would probably qualify as super weird, but I have to do it.
I come every week, sometimes twice if I'm feeling particularly down. Which I haven't been recently; I've just been normal. On auto. Feeling weird. Doing weird things.
So, I'm in the cemetery and I’ve just walked along the right row to see Mum. It’s raining quite heavily, but at least it’s washing her headstone. I still get out the cloth from my bag and wipe down the dripping marble. Her name looks weird. To me she was usually Mum, but everyone else called her Pearl. Margaret Hallwood. It doesn’t sound like my mum. Her name is Margaret, Greek for “pearl”, but what I mean is that nobody ever called her Margaret so it’s not really a name I associate with Mum.
She was thirty-seven. Too young. And she was really healthy, and bouncy, and strong. She used to lift two huge baskets of washing on either hip and carry them all the way down to the laundry room. I have to make two trips, and so does my dad.
I’ve wiped the headstone down, struggling to balance my umbrella. I fiddle with the flowers I brought last week. They still look good: it’s a proper pot plant and the blooms are still nice. Mum hated normal flowers. She said she hated that she just had to watch them sit on the counter, waiting for them to die. So I always bring plants that are living, though I try to choose ones with nice flowers.
Anyway, the weird that I’m doing now, that I always do, that I have to do: I’m laying on the wet muddy ground, on my front, with my arms stretched out either side of me, on top of my mum. It’s like I’m hugging her. The earth is a slight mound over her, and it’s like I can feel her through the dirt: her hands touch mine, her familiar soft body is warm, living, and she can feel I’m here too. It’s like she’s not even dead. But I know this is weird, and I know I’m imagining being able to feel my mum’s shape because I know she’s really dead as a doornail inside her cushy coffin. It’s still nice to lie here, though. It’s the only way we can be together again.
I roll over so I’m beside her instead. I abandoned my umbrella a while ago, so the hard wet pellets of rain hit me full-on in the face. I close my eyes and lay completely still. I cross my arms like a vampire. I straighten my legs properly. Now it’s not like my mum’s alive; now it’s more like I’m dead. No in a bad way; I’m beside Mum, I’m peaceful, and I get to rest forever. I’m dead in a dream; a dream where even when you’re dead you can still think, and feel, and move if you really want to. But I don’t want to. I’ll lie completely still here. I could stay forever, near Mum. As I’m here, and comfy (though it’s very wet and muddy) I might as well just stick around. I could wait here, in peace. I could just wait here to die.
But that’s a weird thought. And my mum would laugh if she were around, and call me a silly idiot. “How can you lay there in the mud? What good will that do? Don’t be daft.” I can almost hear her voice, and I suddenly feel self-conscious and very weird. So I get up and grab the umbrella. I wave goodbye to Mum, tell her I’ll be back next week, and I take the long way home.
When I get in, Dad stares at me.
“Wet and covered in mud. What have you been doing?”
He laughs, reminding me that it’s okay to smile even though Mum’s dead. She wouldn’t mind.
“Laying on the ground,” I say, quite simply.
“Well that’s weird,” my dad says, shaking his head.
I smile at him, but thinking of Mum. “Yes. It’s been a weird day.”