We are proud to announce third place in the Umoja Writing Competition 2016.
Comments from our judges:
“This narrative really captured my attention and pulled at the hear strings. This is the job of a narrative. Well-structured and flowed well.”
“This was probably my top pick. I like the descriptive language and, yes, I did shed a tear or two. I felt like I was in the room with them. I also think the theme ‘peace’ was used perfectly.”
Now it’s your turn to read our third placed entry. Please let us know what you think in the comments below. You could also congratulate Kirsten on her writing.
Left Behind by Kirsten Leggett from Tasmania
I sat beside her bed with her hand in mine; hers wrinkled with age and with lines of wisdom etched into the folds. Her skin was thin these days, speckled with the countless hours in the sun, the time spent tending gardens, pegging washing on the line, holding the hands of her children, her grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I was here to say goodbye, to my grandmother but I could not seem to find the words. We had never had this problem in the past. Talking was never hard, like the heaviness of this moment, as though my heart was being dragged along the bottom of the ocean floor dredging up memories. Now, I felt the weight of this moment above me, bearing down on the inevitable.
She motioned with her free hand towards the drawer beside her bed, her eyes barely open and fixed on mine.
“Everyone must leave something behind,” she whispered. “My journal is yours darling; my last gift to you. You will know what to do with it when the time is right.”
I reached into the drawer and my fingers found the familiar feel of the black leather, smooth and worn from the years of my grandmother’s touch. I had run my hand over its surface so many times over the years, as I sat with her in her living area where she would write in the morning sun that streamed through her window. The past few years she had been documenting so much of her life, and the pages were brimming with memories, the ones too precious to abandon. I brought it out of its resting place and under the low light opened the cover. The scent of my grandmother rose from the pages, a blend of talcum powder and French lavender clinging to the animal hide that formed the bookends to her past. Each page was meticulously marked with a date, a memory, a reminder of a life lived. She no longer battled against the ailing this and failing that. That war was over. She had arrived at this place of surrender, and willingly so it seemed from the outside. She was done.
I can still hear the phantom words of the nursing staff; a gentle touch on my shoulder. “She will be at peace soon.”
Peace? A word so often associated with conflict and resolution I thought.
My grandmother’s words echoed in my conscience, “Life is not meant to be a battle. It is a joy, hardships and all. Embrace them as you would a new born child. We are the product of our life experience”.
I turned the page to see a photograph of my grandmother in her twenties, perched on the hood of a car, smiling into the sun as though she had just discovered the meaning of life, shards of light dancing around her, captured through the lens. It was the same photo that sat on top of her piano, nestled deep inside the confines of a mahogany frame, the one that lights up with the morning rays, and then fades back to a lingering memory as the sun passes over rooftops to settle in the west.
I wondered what I would leave behind, when it was time for me to leave this earth. How long would I linger in the memories of those I love? I know for a fact that I will always live on in the hearts of my children, and their children should I be lucky enough to see them born into this world. I wonder if I too will marvel at how advanced children are these days and how much has changed with the passing of time. With emerging wisdom will I see how precious each moment is, and treasure each milestone as they first smile, grow their first tooth and stumble and totter as they find their feet in this world? Their children may not remember me for I will be just a name, another story of a loved mother and grandmother like an ancient legend read from the pages of a story book. I would be no more than words left on pages, the source of genetic markers and colloquial sayings, my sentiments passed like a baton through generations.
Yet somehow, amongst this wondering I know my essence will remain, in the walls of the house I loved, the saplings that grew tall under my nurturing, and on the mountain trails I walked. Here I will linger, where the flowers burst forth under the mounting pressure of spring, where others too will pass, stop and stoop low to rest a paper thin petal on the tip of their finger and say, “My, look how beautiful you are.” I wonder, on the day that my spirit returns home, will the forest dance and sway in the mountain mist and whisper on the wind “Yes, she found it, all that she had been longing for.”
As I turn another page, a flattened sprig of lavender falls to my lap and my grandmother closes her eyes. I kiss her gently on the forehead. “I see you found it too,” and we sat in the presence of peace, together, just one more time.