This year Platform Youth Culture has collaborated with TasWriters in a creative writing opportunity designed to showcase creative pieces from talented young Tasmanians aged between 12 and 25. As part of this project, young writes were given the opportunity to learn from and develop their creative writing skills by receiving valuable feedback for their submissions from published authors such as Kate Gordon, Christina Booth and Anne Morgan along with the opportunity to participate in a series of creative writing workshops run by Arianne James, Project Coordinator at TasWriters.
Content warnings: discussion of death and funerals
Funerals may be largely repetitive affairs, but that doesn’t make them any easier after the first, or the second, or the fifth time in the space of far fewer years than there should have been between each one. Haven’t you lost track of the number of times that you’ve sat in uncomfortable chairs or church pews, listening to stories of the life of a friend, or a family member, or someone you knew when you were younger? There’s no point counting anymore, is there? No, there’s just another seat, another casket, another picture sitting beside it. Another room full of people dressed in black, crying at the latest death to strike grief through town.
How many deaths does it take before you stop crying when you receive the news, or at the funeral, or when you get home that night? And when you pull those same black clothes off their hangers and put them on, time and time again, will the weight on your chest when you look in the mirror ever go away? Or does the weight of death never lift? Does it hide in those clothes every moment of every day, like a monster waiting to strike when you open your closet and take them down from the rack?
Should you try to change it then? If this monster is haunting you, filling your every waking moment with the constant knowledge that people around you are dying, should you try to do something about it? Will that make the funerals stop? Perhaps it would, but how would you do it? How could a single person, even one walking in the constant shadow of the reaper, do anything to stop any death, let alone so many.
But then again, if no-one else is doing anything – and, believe me, no-one else is doing anything – then shouldn’t you at least try?
Because they do nothing. “No-one should die so young,” they say, but they do nothing to fix the problems that cause people to die young. “Every life lost is a tragedy,” they say, and yet they do nothing to stop the tragedy from happening.
And over again.
Maybe, then, it isn’t death that’s the problem here, but the people that let it run rampant, taking lives without control or constraint. Maybe it’s those people that could change it that are the problem – the ones who pass the laws, who write the big cheques and who talk on TV screens. Because death, in some instances, is natural; everyone has to die someday. But to die like this, so often, so fast, so young… There’s nothing natural about that.
But then a new question arises: how do you hold accountable people that are so powerful? Can it even be done? Would anything you say or do really matter to them?
Maybe that’s why you don’t say anything – why none of us do. Because the deaths happening all around us hurt too much, the monsters they let run rampant already taking so much away from us every time a new death and a new funeral roll around. So, we just sit there, in the church pews and the hard plastic chairs, listening to people talk, trying to make sense of why this happens over and over again. Trying to make sense of why the monsters of death haunt us rather than the ones that prop open the door and let them in.