Reflection on Writing

by Shey Marque

Read her stories Vignettes from “The Hum Hearers” here

When I knew I was losing my mother to an aggressive glioblastoma, I struggled with my stability in the rational world. The remaining moments with her held such a surreal quality. I couldn’t believe the moment of her passing would actually arrive, or what that would look like other than a fairly rapid fading away. The prognosis was three months. I was in an in-between place. Even though I drove three hours return every day to my parents’ house to care for her (my father also had advanced Parkinson’s Disorder), there were limited opportunities to have meaningful conversations with her owing to the late stage of her illness. All I could feel was sadness and hopelessness at the impossibility of connection at the level I craved. So I wrote, in a slightly surreal state which comes across in these three linked vignettes. It was a way of keeping her alive, of making my own connections with her, and grieving the impending loss in small increments so as to avoid the full impact after her death.

In the few years just prior to her diagnosis, she was revealing pieces of her younger life and sharing stories she remembered of her mother, grandmother, and beyond. I’ve been writing a poetry collection based on connections to my maternal ancestors, mainly prose poems that can masquerade as vignettes. A short time before diagnosis, she suddenly seemed reluctant to remember anything further and turned aloof and apathetic toward the past. She became increasingly remote, and we noticed a marked personality change which ultimately led to her diagnosis. At that point we only had three months left, so my need to document her life escalated. These are among the final stories which will appear in my forthcoming collection ‘The Hum Hearers.’

My tip for writing on this topic is to begin writing early and continue throughout the entire experience. Don’t wait for clarity, it will come with the writing process. Sometimes the most interesting component is the arc that is revealed over time, that of your family member and your own transformation. Look for the beauty and capture it. Ask the questions of which you are most afraid. Ask while you can.

Shey Marque, formerly a clinical and research medical scientist, is also a poet and short fiction writer from Perth, Western Australia, located on Whadjuk Noongar land. She holds a MA in Writing, and is currently Deputy Chair of the Board of WA Poets Inc, and on the Board of Writing WA. Her poetry collections are ‘Aporiac’ (Finishing Line Press, 2016) and ‘Keeper of the Ritual’ (UWA Publishing, 2019). Her poetry has received multiple awards with many individual pieces published in various Australian literary journals including Australian Poetry Journal, Award Winning Australian Writing, Cordite Poetry Review, Island Magazine, Meanjin Quarterly, Science Write Now, Southerly, and Westerly. Current writing interests include exploring connections with ancestry through an experimental and hypothetical lens of epigenetics or cellular memory.

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