Her (Barnaby Taylor, 2017)

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I am dead now. I don’t want to be dead. But I am. I didn’t want to die. It wasn’t painful. It wasn’t slow. People didn’t have to sit by my bed for days on end. I died suddenly. Without warning. Just died. Luckily she wasn’t there when it happened. She was at school. Her aunt had to collect her and bring her home. Her mum was with me at the hospital.

Funerals will be always sad. Even for the dead. I was there. Not there. Obviously. I couldn’t bear to see her cry. Be brave. Grown-up. Pretend. Smile. Cry again. A new dress. Clinging to Mum. My will said no boring songs. I sang along to Alice Clark. No one else knew the words. Never Did I Stop Loving You. Her. Not Alice Clark. But I did love hearing Alice Clark. Death is confusing.

I watch her filling a jar with glass pebbles. Each night she chooses two to put inside her pillow. Dream stones. Tonight she chooses an extra one. For me. For her. If I could speak now what could I say? I can’t unbreak her broken heart. She has her whole life ahead of her. Her future. I hope for her to be happy again. Maybe not now. But some time. Me. I only have now. Forever.

Over the weeks I watch how remarkable she is. Now I am dead I can see everything about her more clearly. Her kindness. Compassion. Insight. Strength. Recovery. Hope. Determination. All the things reserved for so-called adults alive and full in her still-young heart. All the things I knew she was always capable of are now beginning to truly flower. I just want her to stop apologising for being sad. It is not her fault I died. Not her.

I don’t feel the rain anymore. But I do feel the crushing weight of disappointment as the rain puts her school trip in doubt. Trying to be confident as she walks to school in her rain jacket. ‘It’s only a shower,’ she says. ‘That’s what Dad would say.’ But it wasn’t a shower. It rained all day. The trip was postponed. Looking through the window of her classroom I watch her as she nearly smiled. Her eyes don’t join in.

I never told her when my dad told me that he had cancer. I wanted to but I didn’t want her to worry. She will have plenty of time for that later. Why fill her young head with old people’s worries? I wanted death to be part of the conversation she had as an adult. But I died before my dad and my plan to protect her came to nought. I actually made things worse for her.

Here comes her birthday. For the first time I’m not there to celebrate with her. People keep telling her that I’ll be there in spirit. That I will be watching. I am and I am but it is no comfort to her. Or me. I’ll be in the kitchen when she comes down on the morning and sees the presents on the table. The cards. Balloons. The birthday hat with the comedy candles. Her eyes.

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