Have you ever done what you dread to do, identify someone close to you in a morgue, on that thin steel table? I did. Just now.
And I have to write this out, to piece together what has happened into some kind of coherence. And because writing is my ballast through life’s toss.
Carry me in on a stretcher from this experience, carry me in.
Nikki talks to Mia Freedman on the latest episode of No Filter about the loss of her mother.
Air from another world. In this concrete box of another world, an other-world, that is hushed and windowless. It is a morgue. It is too close to death. ‘The mouth is always a shock,’ T, the coronial assistant, is warning us.
Bird-like, half our age, a face marinated in kindness, T is doing her best to prepare my brother Paul and myself before we step into the viewing room where a body awaits us. A body that the police need identified urgently on this sunny weekend of too much life everywhere else. ‘No one’s ever prepared for, er, how the lips look,’ T adds.
Here, now, stopped of talk. My mouth a fistful of feathers. In this public service waiting room that is too public service for its task. Glarily new, foreign. Neither Paul nor myself have ever stepped inside such a place. Morgue. The very word a moan, a sullenness. And this building has seen too much life, in all its variety; has seen what it means to be deeply, vulnerably human, too much. You can feel it. The too many tears in this sparsely furnished room of strategically placed tissue boxes. That’s a lot of weeping. These walls, the collectors of tears.
Paul and I are bound together within the fresh shock of this world. It feels like us against everything else. It is all too new. Every conversation feels mined. Full of barbing surprises we do not want to know about. So we prefer not speaking, if at all possible. Can’t. Much. Stopped. T seems to understand.