If you’re in SA, and a writer of any kind, you really need to check out the SA Writer’s Centre. They run wonderful workshops and have all kinds of fantastic resources. If you’re somewhere else in Australia, there’ll be a centre for you too.
Today I went off to sit in a cemetery and participate in something called a Death Wish Repository Workshop. It was wonderful. It was moving, confronting, gentle, personal. I was so glad to be part of it and I’m so excited about this kind of work – bringing people together, creating a space to talk about the unspeakable things. We each wrote in response to many prompts. One of them was all around the details of our own funeral! I have come home with deep food for thought. Just the depth and pace I needed after the mania of the past month.
Here’s something I wrote about, that I think you won’t find particularly confronting. It’s not about death directly, but rather, my thoughts when prompted to think about my very first experiences of mortality. For me, this is when I was around 3 and 4.
I am three. I have learned about death from many places; the rabbit babies stiff in their nest, the flies on the windowsill. I have learned about Heaven and Hell from Sunday School, and night after night I sob in your arms for the people in Hell.
When I think of that story now, its not for the reasons we’ve told it before – not as an illustration of precociousness or an indictment of a spirituality, but is it of you I think: your hands, every night, turned the brown and orange pages of the little paper tract explaining God’s love. Your hair falling around your face as you bent over me, trying to fold your body around mine again, to protect me. Hands trying to soothe me as I wept, to pat me quiet again. All those parts of the world that tore me apart; learning of atrocities in China, the history of the martyrs, massacres and executions. And always, it was you in the late hours, in the dark. While violence and madness wracked me, you were there, trying to give me what answers you had. Against all the evidence, trying to help me believe in love.