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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Handout (04/14/11)

TITLE: Mourning Boxes
By Seema Bagai


The doorbell’s sharp clank jostled me out of bed. Shuffling across the tissue-strewn floor, I pushed back the knots of hair dangling across my forehead. When I unlatched the door, winter’s chill slapped my tearstained cheeks.

More boxes. Great.

One by one, I lugged boxes into the overstuffed room. Previously delivered cartons towered toward the ceiling. Near the bottom of a stack, a couple boxes trembled. Several emitted a strange odor. Muffled sobs seeped from another. My slippers squished across the carpet as I searched for an empty spot to place the packages. Near the window I knelt to examine the latest arrivals.

“This one looks promising,” I announced to nobody. Tanya’s address swirled across the peach-tinted wrapping. I bit my lip, and lifted the lid. Inside I found a hardback book. Ronald’s Stroke. I hurled the book at the wall where it left a dent.

She of all people should know I don’t have time to read this.

Familiar names covered the next three boxes. My heart thumped with anticipation. “Maybe today they sent something.” The boxes were empty. With a sigh, I added them to the largest tower.

The last package felt heavier. I scowled at the return address and unknotted the twine. Before I could finish, the lid burst open and wailing emitted from within. After several minutes of struggling, I managed to secure the box shut and tuck it away behind the TV, my tears dotting the dented cardboard.

Enough already. Why do people keep sending me this stuff?

Since last Monday, these boxes have arrived on my doorstep. Some individually, others in groups. Sometimes, I’d find something useful. Katie’s daily packages contained dark chocolate and a calling card. Uncle Marc and Aunt Rowena mailed a train ticket (“For whenever you’re ready”). Amber sent a dozen origami cranes. Unfolding each one released a flutter of love and comfort.

Most boxes, however, contained things I really didn’t need. The larger and heavier the box, the more useless the contents. Instructional manuals tended to be stuffed into cumbersome containers. The clock and watch boxes ticked steadily. Being dumped behind the sofa stifled them, but at night, the sound intensified.

The baskets of strawberries smelled delicious at first. However, each one was covered with sheets of paper with doves and clouds painted on them. Underneath, each berry had rotted. Soon, the stench made me gag and I heaped other boxes on top of the berries, hoping to not become too nauseous by them.

Like every morning this week, Audrey arrived with tissues and enveloped me in her arms. After the tears tumbled, she listened as I described the latest delivery. “If I get one more autobiography or box of bereavement berries, I’m going to scream.”

“Go for it. How about tossing some of these boxes into the dumpster while you yell? I’ll help.”

“Help toss or yell?”

“Both,” Audrey replied and we chuckled.

Through the afternoon, Audrey listened as I pored over the boxes and poured out my emotions. With her help, I managed to dump some boxes. After the fifth trip to the dumpster, I found another box on the doorstep. I slapped my palm against my forehead while Audrey scooped up the package.

“Just dump it,” I snapped and stomped inside.

Audrey followed and joined me on the sofa. “It’s from Rose,” she whispered, and set the box between us.

“Whatever,” I braced for Audrey’s argument. Instead, she shrugged and slid the parcel closer to me.

I snatched the box and raised it over my head to heave at the wall. The carton felt empty, but I heard something shift inside so I lowered my arms and unwrapped the small container. Inside I found a small sheet of paper.

“I know what you’re going through,” the note began. Before I could crumple the letter, a phrase caught my eye and I gasped. I read the note several times, alternating between sorrow and consolation. The letter closed with “Grieving with you.”

I showed Audrey the note. “I have to make her a box.”

“Don’t you think she’ll have more than enough, too?”

I scanned the room, trying to imagine Rose unwrapping her packages. How many of her boxes would become burdens rather than blessings?

“How about I pick you up tomorrow at 11, and we go visit Rose?” Audrey handed back the letter.

I nodded and gave Audrey a hug. “Bring extra tissues.”

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Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/21/11
Oh, I don't know what to say except hand me one of those tissues. This is such a brilliant piece, you managed to accomplish what is almost impossible. It's a lessen we all need from time to time. You managed to politely tell people that the MC is an individual and though the berry sender likely has the best intentions but no one knows what another is going through.

Your story reminds me of the time my my sister confronted me. It had been about a year since Mom had died and my sister, even though we were raised by the same parents, had a different way of grieving. I knew no one would ever completely understand me when she said "I'd been grieving Mom long enough. It's time to get over it." She meant well but I would never get over it.

This is such raw, touching piece that many will relate to. I want to hold the MC tightly in my arms and just love her and let her mind go where it needs to. Thank you for such a courageous message.
Tracy Nunes 04/21/11
This was a unique and gentle way to bring us into the room with a person who is grieving. Being a good friend is more important than anything. Great job!
Janice Fitzpatrick04/22/11
Honest emotions and thoughts were brought together in this heart felt piece. I can so relate to this as I too lost loved ones so dear to me, especially my mom, two years ago. Very creative and tender. Thank you for writing this! God bless you.
Kathleen Langridge04/26/11
Without shaking or pointing a finger you tapped into the truth of mourning, of loss and the pain of sorrow. The gift is in the visit, no words are needed. Excellent piece for all who grieve.
Amy Michelle Wiley 04/26/11
Wow, this is poignant. It made me think about what "boxes" I send to those around me who are grieving, and how I respond to the ones I get. How blessed are all who have an Audrey in our lives.
Shelley Ledfors 04/26/11
A very poignant and thought-provoking piece. It's so true that we both send and receive those boxes, each in our own way. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, nor to attempt--however poorly--to sympathize with grief. Thanks so much for sharing this.
Kara Dunham 04/27/11
Very powerful imagery and emotions, and very cleverly presented. Excellent work!
Patricia Protzman04/28/11
Congratulations on your highly commended win.
Connie Dixon04/28/11
I love stories that teach a lesson and that's certainly what this one does. We all need to take a look at our "good intentions." Congratulations!
Kim Hamlin04/29/11
Seema, you captured mourning beautifully, love it. Congratulations on the mention!
Rita Garcia04/29/11
Thanks for the tissue warning! Grieving comes in many ways, some expected and some not so much. A touching and unique story, beautifully written!
Linda Goergen05/05/11
This really makes you think!
WOW, powerful!
Jan Ackerson 08/24/11
Seema, this is absolutely lovely, and I plan to feature it for the Front Page showcase for the week of September 5. Look for it on the FaithWriters home page--and congratulations!