The only flowers are pale petals of perdition, too perfect

''For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.''

That canticle was now dead to me.

Dead like my dear wife, who now lay in the open pine casket before the eyes of the mourning crowd.

What is glorious about giving someone disease?

About causing pain and misery?

God: if you had the power, why did you take my love from me?

The sea of black-clad lamenting souls all bowed their heads, limp, face down like criminals in the docks, as was mine.

Empty words such as tragedy and true loss interrupted my thoughts.

This humble, suburban church has not changed a bit.

Two dozen tired pews, an ancient altar and carved Stations of the Cross look indifferently at us.

It was our wedding day.

Same church, same priest, virtually the same crowd.

I remember standing nervously at the altar, shaking.

The stained glass windows shone rainbows on to the congregation.

Everyone was smiling.

''Stand still. You look as though you're going to run,'' whispered my best man.

The organ launched into song, then everyone sat silently, an exited eternal wait.

Suddenly, the heavy doors swung open.

Red and white dressed altar boys led Father McFlagherty and four flower girls, before Belinda gracefully floated down the aisle, her bridal veil a halo.

She carries a riot of bright flowers.

A monophonic hymn forced me back to the present, to the stark reality that my wife is dead. Gone. Passed away.

I'm so tied up in my thoughts that I miss the end of the hymn.

What's that? What touched me?

A small hand has wriggled its way into mine. It's my granddaughter Alice, eyes like her grandma's, deep brown.

They make you feel that you're swimming in melted chocolate, warm and sweet.

I force a weak smile and we sit.

''Belinda, a much loved ...''

After that, all I hear are cliches. Every word makes me feel hollow.

How can my lovely Belinda be just another corpse?

The misery-engulfed congregation watch as my children take a last glimpse at their frail, elderly mother.

No rainbows shine. The light is dull. There is no joy.

The only flowers are pale petals of perdition, too perfect.

They will soon die.

The silent faces watch as I walk down the aisle, a condemned man, out the oak doors, out into the pouring rain which will cloak our tears.


• By Conor O'Neill Year 12, Kavanagh College


Add a Comment


Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter