Birthday Letters (Low dpi)

It’s your birthday today. Twenty six years ago, sixteen minutes past four you came. To me. I know so little of your life. I find a picture of you on the internet. It’s from four years ago. You are on a boat. The wind tugs at your hair. Your hand is covering your mouth. That same shyness. Entrancing. Your friends have tweeted their admiration. Are you pretty? There is a tall grace and yet an awkwardness. You cannot be held still – gazelle-like you are always ready to dart off. Or is that just my impression? I text you, wanting to say more than I can or should. I keep it short.

So much grief. It is ugly today. I have finished Sally Magnusson’s book. So full of love. A mother cherished and held right to the end. He did the same. Such compassion and such patience. These  people overflow with humanity.

An image of clapping hands filled my mind as I woke. Just hands, hundreds, thousands clapping me. Is something coming? Is it something I have done? Or yet to do?

I have a book to write. I am scared by the enormity of it. It stops me still. How do I begin? How do I begin to write of how you were? Is it true? Is any of it true? What am I good for? I trail through my slides preparing for a talk I must give next week. I see the work – some of it good, or at least almost good, reaching for something noble. It’s so tenuous this creating. The faith ebbing and flowing. More ebbing these days. What am I fit for now that the two of you are gone? Who will recognise me? Who will celebrate my life? As I celebrate hers. At such a painful distance.

Bless you, my lovely daughter. Go well.


By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.