The Urn

Honestly, Mark, picking you up today was nearly as bad as the funeral. Time for a brew now. I think I need a nice decaf tea. I might even treat myself and put some honey in it.

At least you prepared me for the funeral. Your mum cried and then got very passive aggressive with your poor sister, just like you said she would. Everyone was bending over backwards to do anything I wanted and suffocating me in the process. It’s only because I was right there under their noses, their comments were unavoidable. ‘Any thing we can do to help. Anything at all. A phone call. A chat. A coffee.’ Wittering on. You would have been amazed at my patience. 

Everyone has eased off since then. The funeral was pretty much an intense end to most peoples’ concern. The worst part of that day was when everyone arrived. It felt like they were all searching for me to prove that they’d showed up. It wasn’t exactly the event of shared grief and a celebration of your life like we had foolishly imagined. It was more like a statement to each other. ‘Look at us. We actually booked time off work for this. And we got flowers. And offered to make Kate dinner next week.’

You didn’t predict how drunk everyone would get at the funeral. I thought a free bar would be a mistake but you had been quite insistent on that part and who am I to argue with you. Now, I see it was a blessing. Everyone got so drunk that it was an easy to sneak past them and leave. I had quickly heard enough about being ‘the poor wife’. Widow.  

I had somewhat prepared for a hectic funeral. You had wanted everyone to come together and they did exactly that. For you. Picking you up from the crematorium with your mum, however. Jesus. It was so morbid and silent. The tall ceiling amplified how quiet the room was. Every shuffle and sniffle echoed through the room. 

Your mum is still furious that you wanted to come home with me. Honestly, I thought she was going to snatch you out of my arms and storm off home with you. Sorry if I was gripping you too tight. I needed you close. 

Whoops. I’ve made two cups here. You would have laughed at that. I find myself doing this a lot. Setting the table for two. Still lying on my side of the bed. The other day, I shouted bye to you as I left for the shop. I just didn’t think. It was horrible. When I got back, I felt like I could still hear my unanswered farewell bouncing off the walls. 

At least you’re back in the house now. I feel better having you home. Although I’m going to have to put you on my side of the table. The sun is hitting that urn and glaring annoyingly in my eyes. 

Doesn’t it feel weird sitting in each other’s seats. I barely ever see the kitchen from this angle. It’s nice seeing things through your eyes. The kitchen seems to really open up from here. It looks almost golden in the dying sunlight. I can’t believe you got to see this every evening. The soft orange sun is making our cream cabinets look yellow. The whole kitchen looks like it’s in a haze.

God, I love you Mark but this urn you’ve picked out is disgusting. I really don’t know why you picked this one. I’m trying my best to talk to you but I can’t get past that clunky silver. You picked it out when we knew you wouldn’t have long left and I had reached the point where I was agreeing with whatever you wanted. I tried to make sure you had everything. It clashes with our house though. Neither of us thought much about having to actually have it here.

I was so blindly grieving before you had even gone that I couldn’t see how vile this silver was. I’ve spoke up about it now. I had to ring Dad the whole way home from the crematorium to tell him about it. I think I actually called it a monstrosity. You know we have no silver in our house. We picked paints that were calming. Soft pastels and easy colours. Neither of us had ever been that cool or edge for bright colours or jazzy wallpaper. I really don’t know what you were thinking with this urn. I mean you got an engraved one for Christ’s sake.

After you picked this urn, it was the last we spoke of your end. You never told me where you’ll want putting and this seems like quite a big decision I’ll have to make on my own. I should have asked you. You should have been given this choice. 

I’m just looking at you across from the kitchen table and it doesn’t seem right to keep you in here though… Weird somehow. Our little kitchen suddenly seems so much smaller. There’s no space on the shelves for you. I can’t put you on the table. I can’t tell you how scared I am of knocking you over.

I remember a girl at university told me about her father who kept her mother’s urn on her chair in the living room. She said when she would go round and clean, she would always knock the urn over. She said that there was more of her mother in the vacuum than in the urn at this point. I had laughed at the time, but I haven’t ever forgotten it. Now, I find it quite horrifying.

The bathroom gets the most light, oddly. I think you still need the daylight. You always loved the sun on your face. Sometimes, I think you were made of a drop of sunshine. You glowed when you were happy and fiery when you were angry. But really, the bathroom. It’s one of those weird social rules, isn’t it? Urns just don’t go in the bathroom. Even though it’s probably the only room you would fit in. You would match the fancy silver faucets your mother got us to perk up the bathroom that was and still is very much stranded in the 1970s.  

No, I’m not putting you in the bathroom. I don’t need you watching me while I’m in there. There should still be some privacy in a marriage. 

Oh, I don’t know where to put you. The living room seems too public. It’s too busy in there. The bookcase with all of your stupid books. I still haven’t moved the desk out of there from when you started working from home either. The sofa is still at dad’s too. There’s still an empty space where your hospital bed was. I can’t really go in that room anymore and I don’t want you to be sealed back in there.

This little house of ours was just the right size for the two of us. Now, even though you’re smaller and squeezed into this urn, the house can’t seem to hold you. The hard, heavy metal of your urn is clashing with our soft house.

Maybe tonight I’ll bring you up to our room? It’s not been nice on my own. I’ll be honest Mark, I’ve been so lonely. I miss your feet brushing mine. Even if it was just our toes touching, it was a splash of warmth. Now, the bed is always cold. I can’t make myself warm without you. I don’t think that icy urn you’re in will help, mind.

I need to learn how to sleep on my own. I can see everyone waiting for me to crack and if they see you on the pillow next to mine, I’ll be carted straight out. The cracks will show regardless. I don’t really know what I’m going to do without you, Mark.

Perhaps I should just get you put into one of them necklaces your mum was talking about? I could carry you with me everywhere and you could watch and laugh at how people are tiptoeing around me. We could go to the shops together again, like we did before you got ill. Or we could even go to the cinema like on our first date. There were so many spots that were ours. So many places that I thought we would go back to in our old age and reminisce about all the things we had done since our first time there. We could still go together with you laced around my neck.

No, that wouldn’t work either. I don’t want to tear you apart into separate necklaces for me, your mum, your sister. Your ashes need to stay together. It was a stupid idea from your mum. Like I said, she’s still not happy you wanted to stay with me. 

Dad’s just texted. He’s found a place where I can get you put into a wooden urn. It’s one that decomposes. I suppose that would be quite nice. I think that you belong in the garden. It was always your garden and you made it so beautiful. I don’t know how I’m going to keep it so nice without you. I can’t tell the difference between plants and weeds. God, I don’t even think I know where the keys for the shed are. 

Oh, Mark. Just bloody come back. I can’t stay speaking to this stupid, ugly urn forever. Please, just come back and tell me where I should put you. Then you can go. I’ll be okay if you just tell me where to put you. I can’t make this decision on my own. I can’t do it on my own. It’s getting dark now and you just look dull. It’s a horrible joke that this is all that’s left of you now. And look! You’re stupid fucking brew just sitting there going cold. Why didn’t I just throw it away when I’d made it? Why did I even make it in the first place. It’s abhorrent. It’s so disgusting it’s making me come up with all the posh adjectives you would have laughed at me for using. You said I got posher the angrier I got. Well I’m furious, Mark. I will outrightly tell you this. I can’t believe you have abandoned me here with no instruction. How do you expect me to fucking cope?


There you are. In our garden with sweet soil all around you and sunflowers are blooming. Their roots run deep and their heads follow the sun. You’re glowing again but your edges are becoming softer every day. There’s not much difference between the rich ground and you. You’re blending and fading away but I know you’re still there.

George White

What is the significance of this work to you?

I find loss and grief a really interesting subject because it is so personal to the individual. Even those who haven’t experienced bereavement specifically, will have undoubtedly felt loss in some form. I have found a lot of writing and media glorifying a grieving widow which made me want to write a more steady and observant character who is simultaneously going through the tragic emotions connected to loss. I wanted to write a quieter reflection on grief.

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

I was always adamant to write this piece using a second-person narrative because I think it really hammers home the idea that ties are not instantly cut after death. A close relationship with someone gives them their own voice in your brain. You are able to know what they would say if they were there, and I think that is why I chose to write it in second person- because the narrator doesn’t need the reader to respond, they already know.

What was your process for creating this work?

When I first had the idea for this story, I wrote it all down before I could forget anything. This left me with a very chaotic word document, but I knew there was a story in there somewhere. I was stuck on the ending for quite a while- I think it’s hard to find a strong conclusion when a death has happened before the story begins. I was very lucky that I knew another wonderful writer who helped me sift through my options. It was definitely a labour of love.

George White (she/her) is a writer from Stockport, England. She enjoys writing short stories in all genres to find what worlds she can squeeze into a few pages. Dystopian used to be her favourite genre but with the past year, she is moving away and into more contemporary fiction. When she isn’t writing, she is cross stitching and watching all the Marvel films (again).

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