The journey out

The year my father died, I became a mother for the first time. My father came to see me in the hospital, a day after I had given birth. He came with my mother. She had pressured me to give birth sooner than I could simply because she wanted to go away to Canberra to meet with her eldest son.

She and my father had been estranged from this son for years and now it looked as though he would welcome my parents back into his life. The fact that I was about to give birth mattered less to my mother than this opportunity to reconnect with her first-born. It also mattered less to her that my father, whose lungs had collapsed with emphysema, might not manage the journey. They were going and that was that.

I stopped answering my mother’s calls. It annoyed me that she feigned interest in how I was going when in fact all she wanted was to see me birthed. The doctors had given me a due date a week earlier and as each day passed I grew more and more frantic.

When my baby was born at last, and my mother gushed into the ward to see the twelfth of her eventual twenty-three grandchildren, I found the greatest pleasure rested, not in her response to my little girl, but in my father’s.

He sat on a chair near the bed and looked on as my mother bubbled over. He did not ask to hold my baby but gave a big smile when I peeled back the blanket from her face. After only ten minutes, he excused himself. It would take him at least ten minutes to get back to the car park. My mother could stay and talk to me while he made his way out.

I watched him as he struggled along the corridor. Twice, he stopped and sat in a chair propped on one side. Twice, he looked as though he might fall over with the effort. Twice, I watched him draw breath back inside his lungs before he had the strength to move on.

And then he was gone from view.

Nine days later he was dead.

We buried him in the Cheltenham cemetery, behind a fence that led onto a golf course. At one point during the burial, my daughter started to cry and my husband took her away from the people scattered around my father’s open grave.

He decided to lay her out on a flat gravestone so that he could change her nappy. Someone called out over the fence when they heard the sound of a baby. A golfer who was alarmed perhaps that things were not right and my husband reassured him.

‘We’re burying her grandfather.’


And so these two events are cemented together in my memory, birth and death together. The old making way for the new.

Cupcakes and death

A friend died in my dream last night and I sat next door to her at the funeral. We talked about her eulogy.

‘Too much God and religion,’ I said.

‘Right up my alley,’ my dead friend said.  She loved her bible.

Given my belief that dreams can tell you more about aspects of yourself than they do about the people in your dream, was I dreaming about my own death?

What would it be like to be at your own funeral? To hear the things people say about you once you’re gone?

I doubt my mother would have liked the words I said in her eulogy, when I was free at last to speak about her without her looking over my shoulder.

Who am I kidding? My mother’s dead but she’s still there somewhere in the recesses of my mind, still passing judgement on my thoughts and words.


I’ve been having a tug of war in my head of late. A potential publisher has read my manuscript and reckons it needs more work.

Don’t they always?

He recommends I get the help of one of his freelancer editors to ‘commercialise’ my manuscript. For now he reckons, it’s more ‘reflective than informative’.

I’d rather be reflective than informative. You can get information from Google, but maybe that’s not what the general public wants.

I want my manuscript to be as good as it can get.

I want to find a readership, but does this mean I will be selling my soul?

Do I stand firm and keep trying to flog my manuscript in its current form to other publishers?

The rejections have been mounting and most of them in the form of ‘This is not right for our lists’.

Maybe this is why I dreamed of death last night.

Maybe my manuscript is dead in the water, or maybe I should give it a go and take on this mentorship – for a price.

If the mentorship came as part of a publishing deal, I would not hesitate, but given I need to throw still more money after it, before resubmitting, is it worth it?

I read a wonderful piece on Brevity’s non-fiction blog that says it all:

How to make a cake out of cupcakes: or how to turn your essays into a book.