About the Author
Roberts’ first stage play was funded by a grant from the former Tasmanian Arts
Advisory Board and from that time she has consistently written for theatre,
often directing her own works. She held an early writer-in-residence position
with the Salamanca Theatre Company and has conducted creative writing workshops
and freelances for magazines.
Rebekah’s first book and as such is both a tribute to her son – and to other
families who have similarly lost loved ones to the horror of addiction.
…only those who have been lost in shadow,
addiction to be an illness, not a choice…
I have never
known how to begin your story. And perhaps because of this dilemma I have at
times questioned whether it was necessary that your story be told.
fear that if I begin I may fail in the telling? I do fear that it shall be too
hard, that my heart shall groan at the drawing out of old memories, old hurts,
old hopes. But of course they are not old, not in a chronological sense and
their vibrancy has the power to despair, uplift, defeat and delight me still.
are those who profess that the agony of loss ultimately lessens, for as I begin
your story now I find it incomprehensible that it is six and a half years since
your death, with the pain still so immense that I remain unable to weep for you.
also whether you would want your story told. Is this why it has taken so long.
Do you hold me back from committing thoughts to paper? And is the telling of it
in truth for you or for myself? Perhaps in the end this won’t matter terribly
is simply the story of a mother’s devotion for her first-born son, whose
journey ended by his own hand before that journey had really begun.
And so to the telling.
pounding upon the front door of our small cottage.
Saturday, 4.00 a.m.
The urgency of it has me immediately alert.
It continues, becomes more insistent.
Already my heart is sinking.
Two police officers await me.
Already I know.
‘Your son is dead.’
My universe heaves and shudders.
In that one moment my life alters forever.
down at you upon the mortuary table. You are
dead. They tell me you are dead. How can that be? How can you be dead, gone from
me, gone from yourself? Gone from everything!
You appear to
be sleeping. Surely you are simply sleeping? For so long I have feared a moment
such as this. Feared its ultimate reality. I gently stroke your forehead. You
are clammy, like play-dough. Cold. I move the tips of my fingers through the
thickness of your hair and bend to kiss you just below the hairline. I kiss your
cheek, stand back to look at you. I am so calm, so quiet, so accepting. Is this
mere disbelief in disguise? Silent and composed, how impressed the police, the
coroner’s assistant, must be. Or are they waiting for me to suddenly erupt
into crazed hysteria, surely the more normal response in such situations?
almost, I lift the sheet which covers your body and see the familiar arms, so
skilfully self-tattooed with your own unique design. I place one hand upon your
chest above the heart, at age 26 still resembling that of a youth. I stroke your
face again, kiss your brow, talk quietly with you. I must absorb and preserve
every touch, every feeling, for the voice in my head tells me that soon this
shall be forever denied me. I whisper ‘I love you’ so many times I drown in
the words. I see the stark blue-black bruising upon your left ear, neck and
upper chest. This is later explained to me as lividity, the pooling of the blood
in the body after death.
open your lids, exposing the eyes. They appear normal, as though I have just now
stirred you from heavy slumber to ensure you were simply resting awhile.
This time you
shall not stir. Never again shall you awaken and look at me with seeing eyes. In
wonderment I gently seal the lids, your thick lashes closing the door forever
upon the exquisite blue of the orb, motionless now yet still so strangely clear
for something that is no longer living.
of officialdom remind me there is work to be done, implying that surely I have
had long enough and am ready to leave, to move on with my day, as they must
theirs. I demand more time. I need more time! Am told as a
statement of fact with no discernible trace of empathy that I shall be able to
view the body again later that week once released to the funeral home. ‘But my
son won’t be the same then, he will be different, he will have changed!’
Sternly I am
ushered from the room by those to whom my son is no more than another of the
previous night’s statistics.
years of loving care and support, of anxiety and elation, of protection and
letting-go, of anger and pride, of sometimes making it right but mostly making
it wrong, but of unrelentingly striving to guide my son’s life to a happier
resolution. Twenty-six years of a mother’s adoration, fear and anticipation
and I am expected to say goodbye within mere moments?
And yet I
allow myself to be led away mutely, obediently, to my own consternation
graciously thanking everyone in attendance.
I turn back to gaze at you once more. You are
I know that you are gone. But where?