My mother was dying. She told us, me and my little brother, one night, over dinner, as if she was talking about the weather. "I'm dying," she said. She said it so calmly, so smoothly, that you wouldn't have thought that it was anything as traumatic as death at all. My brother - he was only six years old - looked over at her in confusion, and then carried on eating his pasta. "I have leukaemia," she said. "I've had it for quite a while now." Slowly, I put my fork down and looked at her, just looked at her. She stared back, her expression was blank. I wondered what emotion my face would betray. I wondered what the expression was, etched onto my face, in my eyes. I didn't know what I was feeling. I didn't know how I was supposed to feel. It was like there was this massive, swirling tornado of emotions twisting inside of me, creating chaos. There was so much I was feeling that I didn't even know what each feeling was. I didn't say anything. I couldn't say anything; I didn't know WHAT to say. So, instead, I just stood up and walked away, going to my room.
I lay there in my bed for a while. Just lay there, staring at the ceiling. And then, out of the blue, I started to cry. I wept. It was one of those rare times when you start crying, and crying, and you just can't stop. I just… couldn't. I didn't have the strength, or energy, or will to make the tears stop, but God, they just kept flooding out. It was as if there was an endless torrent of tears. As if there was a whole ocean inside of me, hidden inside my eyes.
I was helpless. What would happen if she died? Would we be taken into care? My brother and I would be separated, for sure. Nobody ever took in two siblings. I never knew my dad, and my brother was adopted by my mother on the day he was born. He isn't my adopted brother. He IS my brother. Maybe we weren't bound my blood, but we were bound by soul. I couldn't leave him. I couldn't be separated from him. Not when he was still so young, not when he still had so much life to live. I wanted to watch him grow, and grow, and grow. I wanted to be there for him, whether he wanted me or not. I couldn't imagine a life without my mother. I couldn't imagine a life without the smell of baking apple pie, without her perfume, without the way she smiled wearily when we did something wrong, without the hugs she gave us every time we left for school. She always said, "See you later." Never "goodbye". Those words, those three words, "see you later", weren't just words you said when someone left. Those words made up a promise, a promise that she would see us later. "Goodbye" was so permanent. "See you later" wasn't. Now it looked like we were saying "Goodbye" now, after all.
She took her treatments. We went with her every time she went to the doctor's for an appointment, wanting to hear what the doctor said. We didn't want to be left out from anything. One afternoon, a few months after she'd told us, my brother and I came home with a present each. He'd drawn something for her at school, a drawing of him and her and me, sitting on the grass and having a picnic. It was a family custom of ours to have a picnic out in the back garden every Saturday afternoon. As for me… I had gone into town a few days before, and had bought a photo frame to display the drawing. On the side of the frame, in elaborate writing, was 'The Best of Times'. She was in bed when we gave it to her, looking so frail, so weak, so thin. She looked like she would have just crumbled away at the slightest of touches. When she saw our present, she embraced us both. Somehow this hug was different. It was sadder, somehow. More final. As if to say goodbye. There are so many ways to say goodbye. Somehow, in words, it wasn't enough. Words didn't have enough depth in them. It was the unspoken things that said the most.
We left Mum's room shortly, seeing that she needed rest. Before we left, I kissed her on the top of her head and said, "See you in the morning." She smiled, a small, sad smile, and closed her eyes, but said nothing. I took my brother by the hand and led him away, asking him what he wanted to eat. Over dinner, he told me about his day, and how one of his friends kissed a girl. They were six years old. It was supposed to be a dare, my brother told me. Then he asked, "Do you think they're in love now that they've kissed?" I said, "Probably not. But when they're older, maybe." My brother sighed, and said, "I'll never understand love." I thought about how he had taken so much care to do the drawing, how he coloured it in completely and tidily, and how he kissed the photo frame before handing it to Mum. And I realised, he understood love so much better than anybody else.
She didn't wake up in the morning.
A/N: I wrote this ages ago when I was feeling particularly like writing about death. Sorry to be so morbid.. But I really wanted to explore saying goodbye and the infinite number of ways in which to say and express it. It's not easy to say goodbye.
I've decided not to edit it or anything like that since I first wrote it. It's not the best piece of writing I've done, but I wanted to compare my writing from then to now. Please review! :D