This week I walked into a room to watch a dead man be washed for burial. I didn’t take time to prepare myself before entering. Just briefly stalled by faffing around trying to find my orange notebook in Simon’s bag.
They were good to the dead man - they were respectful, and as gentle as they could be.
I felt an imagined sting at the back of my sinuses as the shower head angled itself up the nose, the nostrils being rubbed in a thorough circular motion with thumb and forefinger. The man’s head lolled as he was placed on his side, and his white fingers drooped over the edge of the metal table towards me. Spats of water bounced off him and specked the floor, no doubt my clothes as well.
I tightened myself. I went through cycles of daring to look at the intricacies of this unique, limp man in front of me, then bowing my head in search of respite. I spoke to my Dad afterwards. Through tears I told him how I hadn’t followed my instinct to prepare myself. I hadn’t taken a deep breath and shut my eyes, or looked at the blue sky one last decisive time before descending into the basement.
Dad responded. What he said he’d told me before - one of numerous details from the day that mum died. But on this occasion, the re-telling was a revelation.
Seventeen years ago we raced to the hospital one Friday morning to catch mum’s last breaths. Dad went in first. The nurse said that they should prepare my brother and me before we came in. Dad said no. He said mum was taking her last breaths. He didn’t want us to miss her and her to miss us. Quickly, efficiently, we each had a moment alone with her, before gathering together around her bed, a chorus. Facing the window through which a clear, blue, February sky could be seen, she tried in vain to speak one last time before returning to rattled breaths and exiting on the smoothest, longest diminuendo I have ever experienced.
The nurse had said they should prepare my brother and me. But there hadn’t been time. Seventeen years later I was unprepared again, and my body remembered.
Let Go Home by SON is about grief and our relationship to objects.
To see someone else dead or dying is to confront mortality - our own as much as theirs. We often glance fleet-ing-ly… or peer from the corner of our eyes at the threshold for as long as we can bear, before the sheer mystery inspires a sort of dense confusion. The project posits that collecting material possessions might be a way of distracting ourselves from this mystery, or perhaps an attempt to fill the void of the unknown, and that it can sometimes get out of control… These struggles can be as touching as they are absurd.
So, having initially been inspired by personal stories and memories, we now reach out with our research and investigations to discover something more universal (after all, these themes are bigger than me or you). We’re doing that this summer with the support of Theatre Deli and Arts Council England, and as you can see work is underway.
As we move forward, the blog will be updated with various entries from the artistic team, reflecting on our work and giving an eye onto our creative processes.
Please comment or get in touch if you wish. We’d love to hear from you. You can share the link to this blog too: sontheatre.org/blog/a-death
and you can support our work via our crowdfunding page here.
More soon from me and the LGH team… thanks for reading.