Bone Dust

Have you ever watched somebody you love die? Real life feels surreal when you witness your beloved become lifeless.

On a dark December night, I stood in the hospital alongside my siblings at my mothers bedside. We hung our heads in sombre silence. Following a heart attack in an ambulance the night before, mum lay in a coma in the same hospital where 32 years before she had poured new life from her body for the first time. A priest gave mum the last rites. In the stillness, time became a useless construct. Everything felt too long; too little and too late. I tried to reckon with whether I actually believed in heaven or hell. But when the ECG machine that was attached to mum flat-lined, none of that mattered. I had no religion and no mother to cling to.

Gone. Somewhere beyond this place, swept away out of reach into an endless sleep. Mum, a lifetime of memories, a soft and warm home, now a body slowly turning stiff and cold. And you, you remain here, yet stranded like a castaway surrounded by troubled water.

The sudden death of a parent forces an unholy schism between who you were and who you are now. The wound was made; the knife was rusty and I could feel gangrene setting in. How is it that everything inside of you can shatter and rearrange, but externally, your body still remains whole? I scrambled through the debris of my thoughts and the universe within for the hidden language that would make sense of what felt intensely irrational. I could have sworn traces of bone dust scattered all around me. And somewhere in my mind, I heard the oceans waves composing a symphony as I felt a soul dissipate towards the stars.

Afterwards, we stepped out of the hospital and into that moonless night. The rain fell onto our heads, the crisp air chilled our bones and the dark wrapped itself around us. The world was still spinning just the same; but everything in our world had changed. As we separated, variations of sorrow followed each one of us to our respective homes.

Alone, I returned to the family home we’d shared with mum for 28 years. Stepping into the downstairs corridor — where a single light bulb dangling from a wire spilled uneven light across the tall, burnt orange walls finished with white coving where the white ceiling began — my eyes probed the darkness at the top of the stairs like searchlights. I thought, how empty and miserable and hopeless this place called home felt. What do you do when you find that the sky has fallen down? It had collapsed into itself and into my chest; crushing my ribs and puncturing my lungs; snatching my breaths until there was no air. There was nothing but more and more of the nothingness that occurs in the aftermath of this thing we call death. I had never seen a ghost before, but that night, I found myself accompanied by the shadow of mums ghost scattering bone dust everywhere.

For me, there would be no glory in trying to be strong when I was weak. Everything about that night was heavy. Quietly infuriated, I let myself collapse under the weight of untidy emotions and imploded. When you know you have come undone, you lay yourself down and hope for grace or sleep or a life-raft or anything in the history of the world that had ever pulled a somebody like you — up and through a night that had ended in disaster.

What can be made from the rubble of a different life? I am here, still building; still picking up my pieces; still taking shape. I, too, have since poured new life from my body for the first then second time. Since that night, I have died and been reborn more than a thousand times. I have lived through many, many seasons of sorrow turning to joy over and over again. I have unlearned everything I thought I knew about death.

There is no blueprint on how I handle death, my resolve will be stretched by each one as and when we meet. That dark December night ruined and remade me all at once. I can’t help but mourn the moments we never got to have and who we used to be.

There is nothing beautiful or empowering about my experience. Time, the useless construct, does not make it feel any better. Still, I try to resist the urge to assign ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ to any emotions I feel; I know the thin line between everything I feel is impermanence. So, I let life run through my veins carrying pieces of me along its wild river — guided by sunlight and shadows and starlight and moonlight and traces of bone dust.



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D. Abboh

D. Abboh

Hey there - I'm D. Writer/Storyteller | Creative Non-Fiction | Poetry. I know a little Tai Chi - but my Kung Fu is weak. Email: