Death and dying

by Veronica Foale on April 5, 2013

in Children, Family, Life

I am standing in the greenhouse with a pair of scissors in my hand, snipping away at pumpkin vines. The backs of my hands bleed, a myriad of scratches and tiny pumpkin thistles resisting their inevitable death. A snail slides across the roof beam, leaving a trail of silver behind her. I pluck her off and throw her to the eagerly awaiting chickens, before resuming my cutting.

The pile of vines outside my door grows, twists, morphs into my failures. The pumpkin vines are infected with powdery mildew and dying slowly, covering everything else in their plague. I cut them back (everything ruined forever), before the pile of victims grow.

My pea plants; dead already. The lettuces; bolted to seed. The tomatoes; surviving and thriving. Nature, nurture, luck.

My children play around my legs. Hide and seek, games of dirt. Messy hair and faces.

The grass is long, green and verdant. Our change of seasons has been kind, and the colour is returning to our little corner of the world. Earwigs hide in the corners, their tail pincers snapping maliciously when I move too close, before their nerve breaks and they run run run away.

My baby wakes up and I can hear her, inside, crying for me. I carefully place the scissors down, abandoning the dead and dying.

It’s evening when my husband mentions that he hasn’t seen our daughter’s cat. Our favourite, she is the first in for dinner and the last to disappear afterwards. I get dressed, coat and shoes, and walk outside to check the highway for a small body. The light is fading fast, muted grey and dull.

I always pray when I do this that I’ll find nothing – that my missing animal is merely holed up for the night somewhere else, not interested in having anything to do with me. I have been disappointed too many times before to find any comfort in my denial. Our highway is brutal, fast and unforgiving.

The air catches in the back of my throat, the hint of frosts coming. Icy tendrils snake down my neck and I clutch my collar tighter to myself. A quick glance shows nothing, but I know better and I cross the road quickly to check the long grass, up and down.

I’m not out there for long before my options are exhausted. She’s not here. Not dead on the road.

Relief is a powerful thing.

I jump my fence and come back into the property in the opposite direction, before stopping and looking.


Her eyes are open, just slightly and she is cold, so very cold. Dead a day at least, I wonder how we missed noticing that she wasn’t around hours earlier. She’d run, after being hit – or maybe she dragged herself. We won’t know. The fur skinned from her leg speaks of impossible speed across a bitumen road. She’s collapsed in the corner of our paddock, a puff of grey fur loose on her back.

The blood has soaked deep into the ground.

I hold my daughter as she sobs, my husband outside digging the perpetual holes that need digging when you live in the country and you share your life both with animals and predators.

I am cutting back the pumpkin vines. There is blood on my wrists and death in my heart.



Becky April 5, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Your writing pierces.

Veronica Foale April 5, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Thank you. I haven’t been writing much because it feels somehow self indulgent to be teasing out how I feel about things when I could edit it down to: “My daughter’s cat died, and then my pumpkin vines got plague and now I’m sad.”

Toni April 5, 2013 at 3:56 pm

That was such powerful imagery, smacked me in the heart.

Dorothy April 5, 2013 at 4:17 pm

You write so well. That really hurt. So sorry about your kitteh.

Eccentricess April 5, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Heart stopping. That walk where you are hoping you will find them. That they will come bouncing from a hiding place. That your fears are allayed for another day.

My heart aches for you and your family.

Oculus Mundi April 15, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Tears for you all.

Vince May 31, 2013 at 8:49 am

Beautiful. Sad.
Thank you.

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