Love you to death

Flashback: That week, everyone spoke in sympathetic soft, tilted voices. In a grim comedy, I parrotted their corporate condolences, squawking them directly into my father’s hearing aid.

The funeral director was trying coyly to explain the need for a high-necked outfit: the small incision to the throat which would permit the embalmer’s art. As she spoke, she shuffled papers nervously, until her eye fell on the death certificate: septicaemia. “Never mind,” she said.

“What do you mean, we can’t touch her?” asked my bewildered father. No, not us. Them. No embalming. Public health dictates that septic bodies be left intact. As she died, my mother would continue in her death, her body left to nature’s devices and decay.

The last time I saw her living, I peeled off my gloves to soothe her brow, pulled off my mask to kiss her cheek. Rolled up the gown on my way off the ward, washed my hands and hoped.

I can barely imagine doing otherwise, God forgive me. God help us.

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