When I was seventeen I played a Fury in a play loosely based on The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus at a summer theatre camp in Cheltenham, England. It was my first introduction to Greek tragedy. The play tells the story of Orestes who kills his mother, Clytemnestra, and avenges his father, Agamemnon, the king of…
“I found a book on how to be invisible
Take a pinch of keyhole
And fold yourself up
You cut along a dotted line
You think inside out
And you’re invisible.”
A couple of weeks after India died, I was driving downtown and saw a billboard for the Scotia Bank which featured the image of a mother holding her new baby in a pink blanket. The caption read The moment everything changes. Instantly I was drawn back into the room at Roger’s House where I watched my child die.
Ever since that moment I’ve had to accept that I’m no longer who I used to be. My future is no longer tied to India’s. Not that I ever believed for an instant that she’d feel compelled to look after me or live close by when she grew-up—I understood she had dreams in which I didn’t play a role. Instead I envisioned myself fixed to her as if she were a brightly coloured kite and I, the ribbon tied to her tail.
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.
To describe how it feels to learn your child’s death is imminent is far beyond my abilities. To say that it completely alters the fabric of your being and your perceptions is a clumsy understatement. To live with the knowledge that there’s an immense possibility that you will exist without your child is inconceivable. But it’s important that I try to describe it. Not just for myself, but for the many parents who live with this burden.
India, My Daughter
In front of the purple dinosaur
you kiss me, smack on the lips,
then gallop away. Abandoned
to dust bunnies, I follow scattered
crackers, wanting another kiss.
I find you in a place that has
seen cleaner days. We drink tea from
tiny clay cups. Then you find him,
soft fellow with the sea in his eyes.
You drag him with love, by the fin.
Lesley Buxton, 1999