So, you’re dying. I didn’t recognise the room, in the dim light I could only see the bed. Dawn appeared to be an hour away, and the faint sound of surf crashing on the beach nearby, failed to dampen the sound of a woman gasping for breath. From my position near the nightstand I watched in morbid fascination as she raised her hand and lurched upwards. Mouth wide open in a silent scream, eyes bulging, she clawed at the air. Falling back she clasped her hands to her thin chest and began panting. I felt a familiar pull at my back, the room vanished and I sat up in my own bed, pain lancing across my chest. The alarm clock jangled on the nightstand. I grabbed it, switched it off and thumped it down. Staggering into the bathroom I stood under the shower and thought, What the hell’s wrong with Mum?
Not all Mother – Child relationships are heaven-sent, mine seemed to be somewhere between purgatory, an abysmal chasm of grief and small periods of love. I hung onto the love as much as I could over the four years of no contact, except for a brief visit to see another family member, and zero conversation. Suffice to say we were both hurting. Ignoring my chest pain I dressed, ate breakfast and left for my early shift at the airbase. My head pounded all day, I felt nauseous and kept getting chest pains. I knew what it was, mother. I’m stubborn and said nothing, yet knew something wasn’t right. I returned home, grunted at the ex and fell into bed. She woke me five hours later, my brother had rung. Mother had been taken to hospital, she walked out of the chemist shop mid morning and collapsed on the street, suffering a heart attack.
The trip to Tweed Heads down on the New South Wales border dragged. My pain retreated and I concentrated on driving. This can be difficult when your maternal grandmother and uncle, both deceased are sitting in the back seat. Whenever I glanced in the rear view mirror, there they were. I had no trouble recognising them, Uncle Jack passed when I was about 6 and Nanna lived with us for a while in Sydney. We all arrived at the hospital about 10pm and were led through to ICU. I stood alone at the door leading into the small, darkened room. Within seconds everything vanished to be replaced by a blindingly crisp, white light. The bed appeared and this time there were no machines, only my mother laying on it, dead and wrapped in a crisp, white shroud. It was Monday, I knew she would be gone by Sunday. Moving slowly into the room I sat down by the bed and took her hand. A lifetime of hard work and drudgery toughened it. I held it and thought back through the years. Those hands had held me close to her breast, washed me, dressed me, smacked me, reassured me and pushed me away. I remembered the stories she told of her time working in a hotel at 14, hard, unforgiving work. She’d been a riveter in the ship yards when WW2 broke out and had driven all manner of vehicles in the army. The stories of driving truck loads of American soldiers to the south of England prior to D-day stayed with me. Now, her hands were limp, white and the veins stood out. I whispered, ‘I love you Mum.’ then I cried. She brought her other arm over and held me. I began to pick up images of moonlit beaches and her, walking along the wet sand, alone, deserted. Then I felt myself being dragged there and I pulled back. I spoke with a doctor who assured me she would be up and around in no time and back in the general ward. Lying bastard. I took my ex home, organised time off from work and returned to the Tweed, moving into mother’s unit.
I would sit in the corner of the hospital room by the bed head, out-of-the-way and talk. She either slept or murmured a reply. I contacted my sister in America and an estranged brother; my other brother came up from South Australia. Having spent four years telling myself that my Mum was dead took me through the grief process. I could sit and watch the grief of others, knowing that I had been through most of it. Every morning I would stand at the doorway and look at her aura. From her feet to her thighs a blackness lay there. By the Thursday it hung around her lower abdomen. I knew then her kidneys were faltering. Whenever I stared at the wall opposite me it would vanish and I’d see a large group of people standing together. They all wore purple robes, like gospel singers. Some I recognised. I’d tell Mum and she’d mumble, ‘Oh yes, they were here last night. My mum and grandma are there.’ Then she’d rattle off a few names. The group would sing but mainly they hung around, waiting. On the Friday morning I watched and Carly appeared (the girl from an earlier post) dressed in a ballet outfit she danced and tottered around, smiling broadly. I didn’t say anything and Mum said, ‘Oh that little girl is so nice.’ Saturday and she handed over her jewellery, spoke with us individually and slipped into a deeper sleep. Blackness crept up above her navel and the remaining chakras dimmed. faint glows of yellow, green and blue swirled around her.
Saturday night and we received a call, she’s going. A false alarm and after an hour I drove my siblings to the flat. On daybreak my sister wanted to return to the hospital. I drove along the deserted road leading through Tweed Heads, when a large fish fell out of the sky. A metre away from smacking into the windscreen a huge sea eagle, claws extended swooped down, grasped the fish and beating its wings flew away with its breakfast. We looked at each other, she said, ‘What does that mean?’ – ‘Mum’s going to die today.’ As an aside, Mum had a picture in her unit of a sea eagle with a fish in its claws. I checked her aura when we went in and it seemed steady. Satisfied we left to get breakfast. Early in the afternoon we returned and began the death watch, the nursing staff left us alone and I took up my position. We sat around talking quietly amongst ourselves. A few friends turned up and we spent the evening reminiscing. Mum’s breathing changed about 8.45pm and I noticed a white shape hovering near the ceiling, above the bed. Her aura seemed to glow and her breathing became heavier. Mum loved classical music and someone mentioned how nice it would be if we had brought a cassette player and tapes along. An advert for coffee at the time featured a man singing opera. A television in the nurses station came on and the coffee ad could be heard loud and clear. As the ad faded Mum’s breathing became laboured. I gripped her hand and watched as the white shape lay a few inches above her. The remains of her aura, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet rolled up into a ball and sank into her chest. The form vanished, her throat rattled and she stopped breathing. A thin stream of mixed colours poured out of her forehead, coalesced into a large ball up in the corner of the ceiling, paused and then vanished. I felt a tugging, as if she were trying to take me too. The nurses came in and led us out, I glanced back at the bed. My Mum had gone, all that remained was the shell of a woman who brought me into the world.
We hung around in the family room, a nurse came in and said we could go and see our mother. We took turns and I stood at the door to her room. The machinery, screens and bedside table were all gone. Only a bed and a body in a shroud lay there under the bright light. By 3am we were back at the unit, I put the kettle on while the others sat around the table and talked. Mum’s padded kitchen chair stood in the corner. I kept glancing at it and then I noticed the globs of blue light. They were forming into the shape of a woman, sitting with her legs crossed. I said, ‘Oi, have a look in the corner.’ They all saw it and stared quietly until the lights faded and vanished.
She hung around at her funeral and stayed in the corner while I read the eulogy. I didn’t cry. My grieving stretched over four years. I cried while typing this though, for myself, her and the vagaries of life that lead us to shun each other. She was who she was, none of this becoming some sainted being because she’d died. I’ve come to grips with the terrible events of my childhood and her hearty dislike of my first wife and my friends. It was her way or the highway. What I hang onto and cherish are the faded memories of my early childhood,.. when we loved each other.
I return to a murder scene. Sixteen years on from this event and I’m working in the pass office at the RAAF base. Two women turn up, one a service member I know, who I’ll call Zelda and the other a civilian. Zelda gave me an address for her friend, I sat back and said, ‘Well, I know that place, it would have to be haunted surely?’ The women looked at each other and Zelda said, ‘How do you know?’ I told her about attending the murder scene when I was a copper, and that I’m now something of a paranormal buff, ‘Well come on over after you knock off, I’m sure it’ll be interesting.’ I have to say here that Zelda was an extremely friendly woman, quite the social butterfly. I rang home and told the ex I would be home when I finished investigating the house.
Zelda must have heard my car, she stood at the front door in her silk dressing gown waiting. pausing at the door I relived the hot summer night, the howling dogs, the blood, a mangled face. taking a deep breath I walked in. Nothing, only Zelda hovering too close. Stopping at the entry to the kitchen I said, ‘Well, the kitchen’s different, the table was here and the wall there. Now it looks to have been extended.’ Feeling a damp chill on my back I asked if I could use the toilet. I stepped down into the laundry and found the toilet. That’s when I felt her, no, not Zelda. I forget the woman’s name so we’ll call her Julie. I felt her hovering behind me, a huge, aggravating presence determined to scare me out of the house. When that didn’t work she leaned on me while I peed. Now that’s spooky. I tried to communicate to no avail, the only thing that came from her was, pain, fear, jealousy and grief. Returning to the lounge room I asked Zelda what she felt in the house, ‘Aggro, nothing but aggro. Every married couple who have lived here broke up and there have been a lot of them.’ She pointed at the main bedroom, ‘Come in here and I’ll show you.’ I know, an opening line if ever I’ve heard one.
We sat on the bed and the room became chilly. Zelda laid back on the pillows and the room became colder. Making myself comfortable I laid down and listened, a niggling, droning sound, faint but oh so annoying filled the room. Zelda rolled on her side and faced me, ‘Whenever someone’s in here with me the room gets all funny.’ She moved a little closer, her gown slipped open and Julie stepped up the aggro, ‘See what I mean? It’s worse when I start to…’ I stood up and said, ‘Look, I have to get going. Nothing I do here is going to move Julie on. I get the feeling she’s locked into the place. If it bothers you that much my only suggestion is to move out.’ Zelda slid off the bed, slowly I might add and followed me through to the back door. I stopped next to an open bedroom door, her housemate’s room, with huge posters of male bodybuilders on the wall. I said, ‘Those blokes are really cut.’ She muttered, ‘I thought you might be gay.’ Not wanting to contradict her, she’d tried all of her womanly wiles to keep me there, I smiled and bid her goodnight. Ah, the dangers of paranormal investigation are many fold. Driving home I could still feel Julie’s presence. Gone the scared, gentle spirit I interacted with in the morgue after her death. Instead she’d become jealous and devoted to ruining relationships. Driving men out of her home seemed to be her reason for being. With Zelda living there I knew she would have no shortage of victims. I’m not judging Zelda, she loved men’s company.
As an aside I drove past the house last weekend and saw a man erecting another extension. I thought about stopping and asking about any strange happenings, I even pulled up in the driveway. Then I noticed the aggravated look on the man’s face and drove away. No Laurie keep away, just drive on.
Next week: It doesn’t matter how many times you’re right. They come in groups.