by Simon Evans
Pretty much exactly two months after the birth of our first child my wife fell ill and died within nine weeks. During her short but devastating illness she experienced periods of intense pain. I will never forget the night when I awoke to find her gripping my arm and whispering the words ‘Kill me’ with intense urgency. I didn’t kill her, I could never do that. The illness took that particular task off my hands. At other times her pain would ebb and linger in the wings of her dying days. On these occasions we would lie in bed, cradling our son, as the warm spring breeze billowed the curtains. We both had an unerring belief in the afterlife, the spiritual world beyond mere physical existence. We would talk with certainty about how we wouldn’t be apart, not ever. “I will come back to you my love,” she would say.
So, on the day she died, I sat in the back of a taxi on the way home from the hospice with my son next to me and although the grief roared in my head and heart I felt ready for her to be with us again. I stood outside the closed door of our family home and took a deep breath. “Let’s go and find Mummy shall we?” I said and kissed my son on the top of his head, he smiled – blissfully unaware of the death of his mother.
The house was awash with memories of my wife, her touch was everywhere. Her trace was inescapable. But she wasn’t there. She had gone. I would have to be patient.
While our son slept I would patrol the house with her mobile phone in my hand. I don’t know what I expected to happen but I kept this phone charged and kept it with me even when the smell of her perfume on the mouthpiece gradually faded. I would stand in the kitchen and stroke the words she had written on the calendar. ‘Dentist 3:30’. I would sit at the bottom of the stairs clutching her slippers and shake uncontrollably as the tears poured through my unkempt stubble. But she wasn’t here. There was only loss, emptiness and the horror of her absence.
All of her possessions – her toothbrush, her underwear, her glasses, her keys, her neatly folded clothes, her diary and her bookmark – spoke only of her demise.
Days, weeks and months went by and her ghost, if there was such a thing, left my son and me to face our futures alone.
* * * *
It’s not easy to describe being dead. At first I was just aware of a lack of pain. Time was hard to judge but I can only say that it took a long while to be able to articulate any thoughts or feelings. I knew I was dead because everything was different. My physical substance was gone, my body was dead. But something of me remained. There was an undeniable instinct, I can’t call it a thought but I knew I had a calling. I had to be with my husband and my son. They would be suffering without me and I needed to be near them.
As the need grew in intensity so did the power of my spirit. I began to exist within the traces of myself left in our home. I began to be aware of the presence of my husband and our son. My son often cried for me and at these times I would experience a deep yearning to be with him. But I couldn’t reach out. It was as if we existed in different frequencies. When my husband sat at the foot of the stairs and cried I was there but I knew he felt incredibly alone. I couldn’t reach him. What fuelled me, though, was the need to be with my son. A son needs his mother. A mother needs her son. I had to find a way to reach him. A mother needs her son.
* * * *
As the months went by I lost hope of my wife coming back to me. I was empty. I was a husk. What drove me on was being a father to my boy. More and more he began to look like my wife. Maybe this was the way that she would live on. What was striking was that he not only resembled her through his features but also through his mannerisms. He began to look at me with a searching intensity that burned with the fire of my wife’s characteristic spirit. When he started to speak he started to say her name. “Ka…K..”. He would reach out to me and nearly say ‘Karen’. It was remarkable. I began to find solace and reassurance that Karen had, indeed, found a way to be with us. She was here, in the body of our son.
One evening I carried my boy to bed and put him next to me. I read a few pages of my book before turning out the light.
I awoke from a deep slumber to find my son kneeling next to me in bed. He was gripping my wrist with surprising force. His eyes were black and intense in the grey darkness of night.
He leaned towards me and stared into my eyes.
“K..Kill me,” he whispered.
“Kill me,” he barked.
My hand closed around his throat. I couldn’t resist.