Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Gallery: Trees



This post is for Week 50 of The Gallery: Trees

I'm quite new to The Gallery, so I hope I haven't bent the rules by combining my pic with something I was about to post that is loosely based in Epping Forest. My tree picture is a blossomy hopeful one, but the post is pretty sad.

If you're new too and want to know what The Gallery is, check out Sticky Fingers blog, and then come and join in!

Epping Forest

Before I left the boat I kissed my husband and my baby goodbye. As I cuddled her warm rounded body I thought of another mother who will never hold her soft round baby again. In the tube station tunnels the cheery tunes of buskers creep around corners and offend my ears; they are inappropriate on this day. I would request that all tube passengers maintain a respectful silence while I make my last journey to Epping. STAND BACK TRAIN APPROACHING is displayed in yellow digital lights as I stand on the platform.
“Ring me when you get to Leytonstone,” she would say. “I’ll come and meet you at the station.” Today I’ll be getting a taxi.

Outside the Gathering Room in the bleak drizzle of the forest I paused. I waited. I am going to walk into this room. What will I find? Her husband? Her parents? Eyes of anguish, souls of loss, faces of devastation. Gaps in lives; disbelief; a vacuum; grief. Motherless daughters?
Bereavement grabbed a sob from my stomach and sickeningly urged it up through my throat to choke me in a gut wrenching horror. The bare winter tree branches stretch hauntingly above me into a grey winter sky. Hot tears run down my sad solitary face. I wish for the comfort of the Doctor’s arms but I am alone. And my friend does not exist. I prepare to enter a room full of strangers.

I am talking to her relatives. We are shocked about how quickly this happened.
“Her daughter doesn’t understand,” said her brother, a tear in his eye. “She doesn’t know where Mummy has gone.”
“The worst part for me,” said my friend from work, “was when we saw the hearse in Epping high street. We were on the way here, it must have been going to the house. We knew that it was her because we saw her name spelled out in flowers.”
The mingling buzz of the Gathering Room settled in to an eerie silence. The hearse had arrived. Outside the big windows I see it pull up the gravel driveway. Immaculately arranged white flowers spell out the word MUMMY in the window of the black car. My friend is inside a smart, varnished wooden box. She is a mummy lost. My heart breaks. I cry again, silently holding in the sounds of my grief as the room maintains a quietly English stiff upper lip. The horror of suddenly losing someone so vibrant and young strikes us all like a solemn grandfather clock chiming midnight. This is the end. My friend is gone. A wife is gone. The crowds shuffle into a seven sided wood panelled room with a hopeful skylight in the centre of the wood panelled ceiling. Behind the white-robed woman who will hold the service, huge windows display the friendly trees of Epping Forest, gathered respectfully to listen leafily to the Bible reading from her mother in law, the brave and poignant address from her husband, the prayers and commendation from the vicar, and the crowd’s moments of quiet reflection accompanied by classical music, “Nessun Dorma” by Puccini.

We quietly gather and follow the coffin which is transported by hearse to the burial spot. Many, many mourning-clad, black-coated people crunch boots against gravel and stifle sobs as we trudge a weary procession towards her forested resting place.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” My friend believed in God, and so I am glad that she thought she might be going to a better place.
It’s so cold, so cold. The rain drizzles on to the misery of a solitary husband standing strong at the foot of the grave as the crowd back away quietly. We shuffle politely down a woodland pathway, tearing ourselves from the final sight of our loved one, repressing the painful sounds of our aching grief. I am so angry with cancer! That silent killer that crept unnoticed into my friend’s body and stole from the world what was vibrant and fun, loved and needed, vital and real; a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife and a friend.



Please consider donating to The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, in memory of my friend The Mellow Mum, who never smoked, died seven weeks after diagnosis, and left behind a husband and two tiny daughters.
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