small white box

In the photo, my father's standing tall and handsome, young still, dark haired, clean shaven. He's wearing a suit. He looks down towards the ground. One arm holds a tiny white coffin on his shoulder. The other lifts to steady it. He's walking, one foot is in front of the other.

I know the place - Oscott Cemetery. I know the walk from the car park, under the trees, along the gravel path, then between the rows of graves.

I imagine his lonely walk to the open grave - the new grave, bought for this day - lonely steps. Shouldering his grief.

The year, I think, is 1957, maybe '58. My father would have been in his twenties - maybe 27. My mother was still in hospital, unconscious for days after the birth. My oldest brother just two years old.

It's years since I last saw the old black and white photo, but it came to me in a rush tonight. Feeling his steps. All that is lost carried in a small white box.


  1. Krystyna, I too have a similar image. But burned deep into my brain. There is no photo. No-one possessed a camera in those days. And it is 1961.

    More than the size of the coffin, its colour or the fact that only one person needed to carry it, is the face of my mother. Only my mother, father and the priest attended. And weeks later (months later) her need to bury a shawl by the gravestone because the weather was cold.

    1. Thanks for sharing that with me Ryszard. I understand her need to bury the shawl, but its such a sad image.
      My mother never saw Oles. She was unconscious during the birth and woke days later to an empty room. The baby had already been buried. She was sent home and no one talked about it. The doctor's told her to have another child as soon as possible. She had my middle brother a year or so later, and then finally me. But the brother I never had was a silent presence all through my childhood. We often visited the grave, with its simple wooden cross.


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