Written by Irena C
You don’t have to be ill or 50 or 80 to want to die
We all get lonely
We all make mistakes
We have accidents, we are misunderstood
We all cry
Some loneliness won’t go away
Some mistakes come out so awful
Some misdeeds make us want to hide, never to be found again
Sometimes we can’t cry at all
Sometimes we even want to die.
What is death like?
Does it hurt?
How can you get un-dead?
Is it mostly hopeless?
In the light of the Euthanasia debate I have this story to tell. It’s true, factual, though it happened in my youth. Though this happened years ago, I was almost six and my sister was age 3 and a half, I can still see it as if it had just happened yesterday.
I saw my sister dead! She was in a coffin box. Everyone was crying. They put her in a hole in the ground, put ground and dirt all over her and filled the hole right up. They put a grass mat on top and flowers all over it. They said, “It looks like a garden in Heaven.” I, though only five years old, remember the kisses I gave her. Her lips and cheeks were cold. “She’s gone,” they said. “Dead”, is what they called it…”dead and gone.” I cried because everyone was crying. I was sad because everyone was sad. My heart had a knot in it.
Dad said I could have her toys. Her shoes and clothes were put away and given away. I had to sleep by myself. I couldn’t hear her giggles. She couldn’t tickle me anymore. She would never wake up again. She didn’t come home. She’d be there in the cemetery, under the ground in a pretty white box. I’d ask my dad it that is “Heaven.” He said, “No”.
He said, “Heaven is a happy place where you can laugh and sing! You don’t ever get sick and you don’t ever cry. Your friends will be there by and by…Jesus and His Mother are there…and lots of Angels…just like the picture on your wall.”
“I want to go to Heaven NOW!” I’d say. My Dad would smile and hold me close.
“Not yet,” he would say, “You’ve got a lot of living to do…wait awhile…perhaps I’ll go first and check it out…but let’s not be in a hurry.”
“You can’t go to Heaven,” says my seven-year-old brother, “You have to go to school first…and get married!” “Sis didn’t go to school…and she’s in Heaven now!” I’d say back.
“It’s not your turn, yet.” He’d whisper kindly. “And besides…it’s time for some TV, some biscuits and some milk. Interested?”
Heaven was forgotten for a while.
Christmas came and then came school. My mother didn’t want me to go to school yet. “She’s too young,” I’d hear Mum say to Dad, “and they may not have forgotten…”
“Rubbish!” Dad had said, “She can go!”
Did I want to go to school? Yes and no. Ever since my sister died, none of my friends came over to play. Perhaps they won’t even play with me at school. There will be lots of “other” children. I’ll have NEW friends.
“Go away…you killed your sister…go away! You’re bad…go away…we don’t want you!” the words echoed repeatedly in my brain.
My brother and mother walked with me to the bus-stop. Just as I get there, the bus pulled up. Everyone scrambled in. The bus was over flowing with children. My brother found a seat for me. He stood up next to me. I looked around but I didn’t talk to anyone. Before I knew it everyone was getting off the bus at school. The school playground was full of children. My brother took me to where you “line-up” with the other Kindergarten children. Some were crying. Some were with their Mums or Dads. I held my bag tightly. The teacher smiled, introduced herself and took us all inside. She told the mums and dads to stay outside in the play area. More children began to cry… some even screamed and kicked. After a while the crying and screaming stopped. I liked my teacher. She had a lovely face. She moved quickly and smiled a lot. I smiled back at her. Her clothes were long and funny. She had cardboard around her face. I liked the beads hanging off her belt. I knew they were Rosary Beads. My mother had beads like that, only smaller. The morning passed quickly and then they let me out into the sunlight. I walked into the play area and sat on a bench. Some girls were skipping with a long rope. I watched them.
“Come and play with us!” Shouted one of the girls. I shook my head and looked down at my shoes.
“We need you!… You don’t have to skip, just hold the rope” I shook my head once more.
A girl came up to me and took my hand, “Come on… you can do it. It’s fun!” I allowed her to take me to the rope. I held the rope and slowly twisted it. I enjoyed the movement. I smiled. I felt like jumping with the rope.
“Can you skip?” a girl asked “Don’t know” I reply “never tried.”
A girl took the rope from my hand and nudged me into the centre.
“One, two, three… go!”
I’m in… and skipping. “This is fun.” I heard myself say.
A moment later everyone was standing still. An older girl had grabbed her sister and was pulling her away. “Don’t play with… her! And you (meaning me) keep away!” Two more girls came and took their sisters away. Everyone was startled. They stood with mouths open. I knew what to do. I went back to the bench and sat down. Playtime was over for me. I resisted all attempts to get back into the game.
My teacher had seen and heard everything. She came up to me and said,
“Go and play with the others.”
“Can’t” I’d say simply.
“But… why?” Insisted my teacher.
I looked straight into her eyes and slowly said “‘Cause I killed my sister.” And then I looked down onto my shoes.
The teacher startled for a minute, decided to take me by the hand and lead me inside. I put my head on the desk and closed my eyes. The teacher sat silently with me for a while and then went outside to talk with the big girls. She came in again and sat at her desk and wrote on some white paper. She put the letter into a big white envelope and licked it down. She ran her fingers along the edge. She opened it again, took out the letter, screwed it up and threw it in the bin. She wrote another letter. Satisfied, she read and reread it, then sealed the envelope. “Give this to your Daddy when you get home,” she said to me. I put the envelope in my bag. The rest of the school day became a blur. I sat next to my brother for the bus ride home. The girls were talking about me. My brother told me not to listen.
When I got home I went straight to my room. I crawled into my bed and fell asleep with my bag still on my shoulders and my eyes wet with tears. My mother found the letter in my bag along with my untouched lunch. She gave the letter to my father. “I told you it was too soon,” my mother said to him.
The next morning my father went to school and I stayed at home. I felt bad. I hid under my bed. I wanted to die. My bed surrounded me like a coffin and the darkness buried me like the dirt. My mother couldn’t see me… but she heard me snoring and knew where I was. She left me there. She didn’t know what to do. Every time she came near me I screamed and crawled under the bed further into the corner. She decided to leave me alone until I came out by yourself. She waited until lunchtime. She put an apple, a sandwich and a glass of milk on the floor just under the bed where she knew I could see them. She knew that I was awake. She heard me quietly sobbing. I was crying because I “woke-up” and realised that I wasn’t dead… yet.
Dying seemed to take a long time. My sister fell into the water. No one saw her. She was dead when I reached her and pulled her by the hair out of the water. That’s why the big girls said “you killed her.” They said, “you didn’t look after her properly ……….. same as killing her.”
“I took her to buy an ice-cream and she ran off. Then I found her in the water, dead.”
Why can’t I die? I wanted to.
The bed was pulled away from the wall. The bright sunlight smarted my eyes. “Go away,” I shouted, “just….go away!” My father was back from school. He was holding his arms out to me. Slowly I got up rubbing my eyes and cuddled up really close.
“Dying isn’t much fun, is it?” said dad. He knew. He was a soldier in the Big War (World War 2). He could read my mind, too.
“No,” I heard myself say, “I don’t want to die anymore. It’s too hard.”
“Do you want to go to school?” Asked dad
“Oh, yes, yes!”
“I’ll take you tomorrow,” said dad.
“But what about the big girls?” I asked.
“The smaller girls will play with you, I promise,” said dad.
“Thanks, dad!” I gave him a bear hug.
“Sister and I have straightened out the big girls… and the smaller girls say that you are a great skipper!” “Really?” I asked.
“Really,” said dad. “Can you show me how you skip?”
“We need a rope,” I’d say dejectedly.
“No problem,” said dad holding one up in his hand, “and can I go first?”
“Oh, dad,” I laughed, and hugged him once more.