It was after seeing the grave that I finally decided to take a child. There was nothing special about it; the grave, that is. Not one of those ghastly, over-sentimentalised affairs sprouting angels’ wings or teddy bears. Quite plain. A simple stone and a concise message:
In memory of our dearly loved little girl
Lucy Sarah Brown aged 2 years.
Born 20-9-1982 – Died 16-10-1984
Safe in the hands of Jesus
Somehow, imagining little Lucy’s life – and her demise – touched me deeply, coming as it did just a month after Mother’s death. How desperately tragic. What might have killed a child so young? A car accident? Meningitis? A hole in the heart? How her parents must have suffered. How they must have grieved for their ‘dearly loved little girl’ – still be grieving, in fact; she’d been gone only two months, after all. So very sad.
As I thought about it, I almost wished I could share my plans with them; with Lucy’s original parents. Let them know that, in a sense, their Lucy was going to be brought back to life; I was going to bring Lucy back to life! Perhaps they would be comforted by that thought. Of course, telling them would never be possible, and anyway, she would cease to be their Lucy. She would become my Lucy. Lucy would be my secret. She would be my daughter, my secret daughter. How perfect! Lucy Brown. A fine, tasteful name – yet, ‘normal’. Not one that stood out too vividly, just like the sad little grave.
It wasn’t as though I had planned the whole thing beforehand, thought it through – not at that stage. The idea grew out of a medley of thoughts that had been swirling in my mind; indistinct, like miscellaneous letter-shaped noodles stirred into soup, sometimes emerging for a moment to make meaningful combinations on the surface, then breaking up and disappearing into the depths of the pot. Stumbling upon the grave that day drew the letters together, began to make order and sense of them. I had decided.
It was a bright, crisp December day. Long shadows streaked the wet grass. Early afternoon, but already the sun was starting its descent towards the rooftops. As often before, I had been wandering through one of the city’s urban cemeteries. Not that I was attracted to such places for any macabre reasons. No, it was the quiet I yearned for, the peace, and perhaps the sense of the past. This was a particularly agreeable cemetery; serene, well maintained and cared for, with mature trees and shrubs creating a screen from the surrounding suburban streets, emphasising the separateness of the graveyard.
At first I had been drawn to the grave simply by the fresh, bright flowers arranged in neat vases, which contrasted with the faded, bedraggled blooms nearby. But standing there in front of the grave, my attention soon abandoned the flowers. I was mesmerised by the name; Brown. It is natural to notice one’s own surname. I stood and gazed at the neat letters, the scrolled stonework marking the boundary of the pitifully small grave and containing shiny gravel of various colours: pink, brown, yellow and green. On the headstone, carved stone hands curved beneath the words ‘Safe in the hands of Jesus’ as though gently lifting them – or perhaps Lucy herself – upwards, heavenwards. All the while, as my eyes absorbed these details, my heart was beating unevenly and with great excitement. A plan started to take shape in my mind. It was so simple; Lucy Brown would become my child – indeed, my invention. Just as, years ago, Mother had created me as Alison Brown. I could hardly wait to get home and begin to put my ideas onto paper.