Without opening my eyes, I can tell where I am. That smell, clean and sharp, accompanies the cold that always chills me to the bone. Listening to the noise around me, beeps and buzzers, with lots of muffled voices. Again, I tried to open my eyes.
White, blinding light, so bright, I just have to close them again.
If I could just focus in on one voice, maybe I can work out what’s going on. Children’s voices, what a beautiful sound. Makes me think of my children, but they are not children anymore. All grown up, and moved away. How much I miss them, and how much I love the little moments I get to spend with them when they visit. Who are the children?
White, blinding light, I just can’t seem to see.
Two girl’s voices, chatting, they seem close. Wait a minute, they are chatting about me. I know that story. I remember that day. Suddenly, I feel a lot warmer, the sunlight on my face and the colours of the world flood in, as if I was there again. For that moment I felt young again, and with that I could hear their voices clearly, my two daughters, sitting here but journeying back in time to a moment that reminded me of the love I have for them.
White blinding light, I need to see them and tell them, I do remember!
What happened, their voices are gone? Still I hear other voices. This time I feel a hand on my hand. Funny, I can tell it’s an old hand but the touch is as soft and sweet as a child’s. Then I feel a pressing on my forehead. A kiss.
“It’s ok Pop, all your children are here. It’ll be all right if you let go now,”
I know that voice. Oh, how I want to talk to her and tell her how sorry I am for the heartache I caused. Still, she is here by my side. Focusing on her hand holding mine, my thumb tracing the now deep wrinkle lines that age and time helped form. A warm ray of light, takes me back to that day, I stood by her, listening to the preacher delivering his lines. What I remember most of that day was my young hand holding her sweet little fingers, as I slid on the ring that would make her my first wife.
White blinding light, why can I not open my eyes, just for one moment to look on her face?
It seems like all day my eyes have been shut, but the travels I’ve had, out into the world and back again, have made me so tired. The wonders I’ve seen and joy I have felt, but now I feel fear. My heart is racing but I’m so, so tired. I know I need rest, and a sleep would do me good, but how do I close my eyes to sleep when they are already shut?
White blinding light, let me open them, so that I can close them to sleep.
Then came a voice of an angel. I know it’s not true, because that voice was taken from me so long ago. If it’s only in my mind then why can I feel her presence? Nothing will stop me from opening my eyes, to see her, to hold her, to be with her one more time.
White blinding light, but not so bright that I can’t open my eyes.
Colour rushing in all at once, it’s hard to focus, but before it becomes fully clear, sounds and smells tell me where I am. Bees buzzing, the spring flowers in full bloom, a rainbow of colour. The clashing sounds of the lorikeets and twenty-eights in an orchestra of bird calls. I’m now sitting, looking out on my garden. On the table in front of me, are my favourite gloves, covered in soil. My ashtray has me mesmerised at the little trail of smoke, rising from a half-finished cigarette.
“Do you want a coffee Bill?” Came a voice from inside the house.
“Yes,” I replied, without hesitation.
Was this a dream or real? It felt real. Everything in me wanted to jump up and run to the house and embrace Joan, but was she really there? Faintly, as if an echo, I could hear a distant voice.
“It’s ok Pop, let go, rest,”
With that I took a deep breath in, then exhaled, what seemed the most peaceful of breaths. The sounds of that other world faded away and I could see my surroundings clearly. The door behind me opened and I looked up at Joan’s smiling face.
“I’ve got bickies or chocolates to go with the coffee. Which one?” she asked.
“Why not both?” I replied.
Dedicated to my grandfather,
William Frederick Brady 1925-2013.
I remember standing by his bed on the day he died, thinking, can he hear us all making such a racket? My aunties were laughing and telling funny stories. His small hospital room was overcrowded and I was waiting for someone to tell us we had to leave, be quiet or take it in turns to see him.
With this story, I tried to consider what he may have been thinking if he was hearing the commotion. No one was sure how long he would hold on, but it did give us all time to chat with him. One of the last things I said to him before leaving the hospital was that it was ok to let go.
Staying in the first-person perspective, and having only his point of view, without opening his eyes gave me a new way to express things.
Before I could drive the 40km home, my father called to tell me that Pop had passed away. I’m not a religious person, but I like to think that in our final moments, we dream a lifetime and end it on a high note. This course, has helped me find a voice that I can use to fill in the blank spaces between the facts, in the family history with my interpretation of what might have been.
I’m sure, we all have unfinished business and things to atone for but in the end, it really is about how many people our lives intertwined with, and the hope that they remember we lived.