Tomorrow it will be a year since my little sister Libby died. It’s been a big year. It’s lucky I know my neighborhood well because I have driven its streets in tears. I took showers in tears, I rode hills crying, had coffees with friends in tears. Sunglasses are good for this, playing it solo is better. I don’t like crying. I don’t think tears are a weakness, I think I’ve always had a fear if I start crying I’ll never stop.
Still, when your sister dies you learn to cry and be bloody good about it. And it seems as though the best tears – the most cathartic, useful, required – are the tears you cry when your serving a customer, or speaking to one of your son’s teachers, or at the woman who sold you a dress, who told you about her sister and how she still cries seventeen years after she died. Not as frequently, she said. I have never worn that dress the association is too rich.
I’ve been bothered by this anniversary, how to mark it, how to think about it, what to do. I’ve been obsessing for months, at least three, about the upcoming First Year Anniversary. Happy First Birthday, Death.
Libby’s ashes are in a box in her lounge room. When I visit her partner I look up at her on her high shelf but I can’t look for long, so I turn my gaze to the photos of Libby and Darren at various events, and I don’t look at them for long either. There is nowhere, no surface, and no wall that is safe to look at Libby and Darren’s place. Darren’s place. I’ve made the correction and don’t call it Libby’s place these days. It’s not her uneven path and it’s not her front door.
Libby doesn’t have a grave either.
In the past I haven’t been that into the idea of a grave because I worried that a grave would be somewhere I’d feeling guilty about not visiting.
But a grave gives you something to do on an anniversary. You get up, get dressed, have breakfast, and go visit the grave. It’s automatic. You can do this at Christmas, on a birthday, whenever you feel like spending time.
Tomorrow, June the tenth, we are scattering Libby’s ashes.
There’s a rock on the banks of the Yarra River in Warrandyte. It’s solid, big, you can stand on it; we can all stand on it. It’s time immemorial, that rock. To the right is a bend in the river and at the moment the water is high, it swirls round the bend and fast on by. The bank opposite, is treed, dense, the colours of the leaves are magic right now, red, brown, dark green, olive.
The day I found the spot, I was with a friend and had just finished telling her about Libby’s idea of where she might like to be. It had to be bush.
‘And we need animals. She loved animals.’
Less than half minute later Jenny said, ‘Is that a platypus?’
I looked. Wood? Dark driftwood? I watched the piece of wood curl itself into the water.
‘Well, we have to do it here now.’
We stood on the rock and watched the platypus bob up and down another seven times. Cars passed by on the embankment above us; traffic and a platypus and a place for Libby. I don’t mind admitting we cried.
It’s already special, our place, the rock, we called it Playtpus Rock, of course we did. I’ve been back twice since I discovered it five days ago, I’ve taken photos and imagined tomorrow. Our little group, trading Libby stories and crying on each other’s shoulders. I’m imagining lots of hugs and lots of laughing. It will be hard but it will be good. And I’m imagining the days after, the weeks and months to follow, ordinary, non-anniversary days, where I will show up and sit on the rock and think about Libby or just think.
From tomorrow we will have somewhere to go.
come back tomorrow, Platypus!