Author: Salomé Emilie Streiff
“You should write about the stars,” she said before coughing.
I nodded. I could write about the stars. I started to picture myself lying on top of a hill, with the sky as my limit and countless of lights. They were dancing to the rhythm of the nostalgic symphony nature plays when no one is watching. So far away from one another, they seemed slightly lonely. It was the price to pay to be this beautiful. Suddenly the night felt too heavy, like the pressure of a thousand worlds was resting on my chest.
“But it should be comforting”, she added, still coughing.
I nodded again. Stars could be comforting. They are, actually. They remained still throughout countless lifetimes as if they were powered by the gods. They watch from above and listen to every wish. I could imagine talking to them and sending all my grief in unanswered prayers to the sky.
“And anything but depressing.”
I looked at her with a smile in my eyes.
“It’s a funeral grandma, it must be depressing.”
She coughed again and let out a sigh. With her wrinkled fingers, she drew a heart on my hand. I was sitting on the side of her bed, on which she was neither sitting nor lying. Old people know how to write poetry without words.
“I guess you’re right, it has to be a bit depressing.”
I took my pen and started to write again.
“What about comparing you to a star in your living era and saying something about you watching us from above, among the others?”
“Come on Mackenzie, even for an old lady like me, it sounds cheap.”
The nurse came to feed her, letting me know my presence was no longer welcomed. I closed my notebook and kissed her on the right cheek. She held my hands for a while and pressed them on her lips, as if she was revealing to them her dearest secret. Old people know how to write poetry without words.
“You’ll come back tomorrow, and we’ll work on that eulogy a bit more.”
She died that night.
The next week at the funeral, I was standing on a wooden stage in front of her family and what she called her “leftover companions”. My aunt, who drove from the south of France, seemed more tired than sad, her two daughters were too young to capture the essence of the moment, and most of my grandmother’s friends were too senile to understand anything. A few died in the year that followed to support this observation. After six nights of staring at my bedroom wall, searching for inspiration between waves of sorrow, I was left with a few sentences about the stars, and the recurring sound of her bad cough. My grandma sought out to dance among the stars and it suited her. For her eulogy, I said a few words about their shiny dance and her coughing poetry with acoustic feedback as only musical support. It was cheap, but everyone shed a tear; sadness tends to transform weak verses into touching art. For years, her last words haunted me, as if the perfect eulogy were lying in the day after. With each night that separated me from her funeral, it was growing a day older, always in advance. I could picture it, in the form of a young woman full of wit, smiling sardonically at me, knowing I would never capture her. I never came close enough to seize the rhymes that would flawlessly capture her spirit. Her eulogy resisted me, and its absence reminded me of the silence spell she whispered before leaving, as if she put in it the secret recipe to catch the perfect tribute. Every now and then, I still try to translate the poetry that she left in my hands. Sometimes it’s cheap, and sometimes there is a taste of tomorrow between the lines.