I last saw my mother in September 2018. Returning home from this trip to my home town of Oamaru, in anger against the horrible disease that commanded her life, I wrote this poem. Sadly, my ninety-year-old mum passed away on September the 22nd.
What I want to say, Edna is that it’ll be alright.
Except it won’t. It won’t ever be alright again.
What I want to feel, Edna, is your fiery explosions, your blistering words –
‘That skirt’s too short, that lip-stick too bright, and, my girl, your hair’s a fright.
You’re not to leave this house looking like that, tonight!’
But what I feel is your spirit broken.
No rebukes, no lectures. Words left unspoken.
What I want to smell, Edna, is the passion you baked, the kindness you kindled.
Nourishing all who crossed your door, unreservedly, compassionately,
The dead-beat boyfriends, the lame, the meek or socially poor.
But what I smell is decay.
Lost in solitude, you’re wasting away.
What I want to see, Edna is you in your thriving vegetable patch
And beloved rose garden as you toil. Discarding weeds, snipping thorns,
Watering seedlings, turning soil.
But what I see is an imposter,
A shell, an empty vessel, not my mother.
What I want to hear, Edna is you joyously singing your favourite tune
‘You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,’ hugging us, swirling us, loving us,
Telling us life is good, life is fine.
But what I hear is your silent shout
Against this bum hand, you’ve been dealt.
Down this alien path entangled by snarly brambles
You ramble. Hideous, insidious vines scramble
Your memory, confuse your mind, fuddle your brain
As blindly, you navigate this treacherous terrain.
Edna, it won’t ever be alright again.