Part way up the mountain in Macedon, we said goodbye to my niece. It was freezing despite the faintest glimmer of sunshine.
The organisers had set up a marquee in a secluded section of the gardens at Duneira, a reception centre that mainly caters for weddings and other life inspiring events.
It was uncanny the way I found myself – I was not alone in this –using the word ‘wedding’ in the place of funeral. It was also understandable, because in November last year, my niece and her partner were married in the sun in Portsea and the festivities were similar, much happier, but even then we knew about the gruesome diagnosis and that it was only a matter of time before we would be saying goodbye.
Even in her dying, my niece worried about polluting the earth with her chemical soaked remains and so she organised an environmentally sustainable funeral where they did not use more chemicals to keep her body life-like after death.
Nor did she use a coffin. Instead, her family wrapped her in a shroud, which they and others who had attended an earlier vigil, decorated with drawings and messages. A simple calico coloured cloth that housed her body before cremation.
They rested my niece on a flat board with handles on either side, which the pallbearers used to carry her out.
We all brought flowers and foliage from our gardens and spread them around her body during the service and then later the funeral assistants carried these cuttings, flowers and branches in huge strips of cloth behind the hearse.
My niece’s immediate family walked before the hearse as it drove down the hill to the main road and the rest of us formed a guard of honour on either side to farewell this beloved young woman.
All the cliché’s come to my mind and I try to push them away.
I dreamed this morning that my niece’s father, my brother, stayed at my house. He was looking for things to repair he said. He liked to keep himself busy.
Keep busy, he and his wife said after the funeral, as they handed out food to guests. Keep busy, as if in doing so they could keep on living.
If we stop we die, too. We join my niece in her frozen state.
In the past week I find myself overcome by a type of malaise that leaves me unmotivated beyond my work and the normal domestic duties of my days.
I find myself wanting to withdraw from the extra-curricula.
I find myself wanting to sleep more than usual.
I find myself wanting to avoid writing.
I tell myself I’ve written enough words for any person’s lifetime. Maybe it’s time to start editing and erasing. Prune back the words to their bare minimum.
I know of at least two successful writers who reckon that most people write too much.
I felt chastened when they first told me this. It left me feeling clumsy and loud, as if I had spilt out my thoughts in a useless array when I should be more like my friends and sit for hours in silence before I let one single sentence appear on my screen.
Everything else is mere indulgence.