Funereal wave. Suspension of belief.

It is a wave

washing over,

as wrinkled toes


and touch the seabed.

It laps your shoulders

and head,

fizzes and falls.

You are tossed

against it.

There are two stages of life,

before and after

the death of your parents.

Before, you are a child


an orphan.

For some this happens suddenly

for others

the process is gradual.

a cancer

a dementia

a protracted deterioration.

Frailty, organ failure or senescence.

There is before.

There are the phone calls

at incongruous moments,

that spark fear.

Is this it?

You ask,

Is this the call?


live in the shadow.

Others manage

To maintain a state of innocence.

With me,

I have an internal guilt

That associates any unanticipated


‘Could I talk to you,’


‘Please come to my office,’

Or even,

‘May I speak to Mr X’

‘What can it be?’

‘What cata-strophe?’

Some of us live in this state of suspended


Or angst.

Always presuming the worst.

A tenterhooks Umwelt.

The warrior is ready for an attack at any time.

The anxious man is ready for the tiger that never comes.

See the difference?

And, when the call does come, ‘We have some bad news,’ it is a relief. The worst has happened, ‘Your dad died last night, we did everything we could,’ or, whatever platitudes, explanations, narrative. With ‘died’ you stopped hearing, with that word you have moved-on, with that quotidian slap everything is different. Now you are a man. Now you are responsible. And even after this trauma, after the subsequent haze, you still hope, even when you know or have seen the reality, the death, the mottled body, the same irrational self which carried you along all kinds of worst-case-scenario fantasies. When the phone rings you still imagine, this time it might be mum or dad, a shift from beyond, a distortion of reality, and why not allow this fiction? Is it improbable, unlikely, impossible? We humans have an inborn tendency to fancy, the scratch-card unreality check, ‘Maybe this one is the winner,’ or the self-delusion, ‘I can stop drinking, smoking, obsessing when I like,’ says the addict to their parent/sibling/partner; humans love delusion, it is us at our best and our worst, it is suspended belief, the search for the miraculous, the supposition of magic or unreality.

Before and after are the same.

When before is after,

After is before.

Life always races forwards.

In the town of Otsuchi in North East Japan, there is a wind-telephone. An old fashioned rotary not connected to any network or exchange. The phone box was installed after the 2011 tsunami to provide survivors time and space to connect with those who were lost, who in a moment were taken away by the giant wave. Those who use the phone know that their husbands, wives, mothers or fathers are gone, their bodies disappeared and yet, over the years more and more people have travelled to this garden to engage with those no longer alive. It is a gimmick for sure, but one that allows people to express themselves in ways that might not be comprehensible to those who have not experienced this loss, ‘Hello, mummy, I just wanted to say I miss you.’ No need for extended narrative, the sentiment is powerful the message concise. The phone never rings and there is no call-tone, it is a fragment of a world lost, that of the analogue, of the wired connection and exchanges, more tangible than our Samsung or iPhone.

For more on the topic, listen to this 2016 TAL Podcast.

Published by rodkersh1948

Trying to understand the world, one emotion at a time.

2 thoughts on “Funereal wave. Suspension of belief.

  1. Rod,

    I’ll never forget that morning that you called me to inform me that our Dad had died in the night. Nor will I ever forget those last moments you shared with me at Mum’s bedside as she slipped away. Indelible, for a while. Until it’s my turn.

    Liked by 1 person

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