A place to discuss hard stuff that happens to humans

The Dress

We were told Greg was going to die exactly one year after our own baby was born.

“I’m sorry, the cancer has spread to your lungs. We won’t be operating as it will be pointless. There isn’t anything we can do for you.”

It’s my life that flashes before my eyes, not Greg’s. Me as a reckless teenager, as a shy child. Me as a baby in my mum’s arms, my jet-black hair. Now as a mother of daughters myself, I know the space of unshakable hope and love that is blasted open through the universe when a baby is born.

The comparisons between birth and death become obvious when you are in the presence of both in a short space of time.

Birth means there is literally nothing to hide behind and you quickly realise you are not in control, your body is going to take over. The trick is to get out of the way and let it. As my body started to pull itself apart, my mind flipped out on the endorphins and oxytocin and the wild imagery began.

I see the wallpaper of my childhood bedroom printed over everything. Whether my eyes are open or closed, it’s there.

I am walking up the Brecon Beacons holding hands in a row with all of my girlfriends.

I am hugging my dog, so real that at one point, I scream ‘MILK!’ (Umm….does she want a glass of milk?” the midwife asked. “No” said Greg ‘It’s just the name of our dog”).

I can hear a rhythmic noise that sounds like an animal barking. I look around to see what it is and when I feel the midwife grab my hand, I realise it’s coming from me. I’m 10cm dilated and I’m ready and she’s coming. I look at Greg. He looks like a daddy already, so confident. He is slowly nodding as he tells me that I’m strong and that I can do this and he’s here.

A year from this moment, I wanted to revel in these memories, at the pure joy and magic of the beginning of a life but instead, death has come to greet us.

Death means there is literally nothing to hide behind and you quickly realise you are not in control, your body is going to take over. The trick here is to find a way to stop that from happening. As Greg’s body starts to pull itself apart, my mind flips out on the adrenaline and terror and the obscure imagery begins.

The dress. It’s bright pink, a jubilant summer fuchsia. A 1950s style with capped sleeves, nipped in waist and full skirt, the Christian Dior New Look. The dress embodies the total crisis that facing mortality brings; making everything utterly frivolous and pointless while at the same time, all things that provide any kind of joy become the absolute meaning of life. Whose dress is this? Not mine. Why is my wardrobe full of black and grey when I could be wearing pink?

Bette Midler. Every morning through every December, I start the day with her Christmas album blaring. Please live until Christmas, I need to listen to that album one more time because soon I will never be able to listen to it again. Every year, we have the same argument – I want a real tree because it reminds me of my childhood but Greg’s convinced I won’t clean up all the shed needles and just throw it out the back door to rot throughout the year. HE’S RIGHT! He’s so right, that’s exactly what I will do and I so desperately want to have that argument with him.

Twin Peaks doesn’t start until May. He has waited 25 years to see it and now he won’t. How can I get in contact with David Lynch to get a copy?

I can hear a rhythmic noise that sounds like an animal dying. I look around to see what it is and when I feel the nurse grab my hand, I realise its coming from me. I’m having a panic attack and I can’t breathe and I’m going to be sick. I look at Greg. He looks like a little boy. He is slowly nodding as the surgeon tells him there is nothing more they can do for him because the cancer is too advanced.

He thanks the surgeon for coming to tell him. Greg’s politeness in the face of death floors me. WHY ARE YOU FUCKING THANKING HIM? He has told you you’re going to die. I fantasise about smashing the surgeons head into the floor with a hammer. He looks like Voldemort. Has no one else noticed that? The doctors float around the corridors like Dementors delivering death blows.

“How long have I got?”

PLEASE DON’T SAY A NUMBER, PLEASE DON’T SAY A NUMBER, I CAN’T HEAR A NUMBER

‘We don’t know”

I think about taking the girls camping. This is a ludicrous idea as I hate camping and don’t own a tent.

Oh fuck. The girls.



5 thoughts on “The Dress”

  • Hello Stacey,

    I came along with my boyfriend’s mum to the SO: To Speak Touch Network night a while back ( I was sat on the sofa ) and I can’t tell you how blown away I was when you read this piece out to us all. It touched us in ways I didn’t think possible. I had never listened to stories read out loud properly and it drove me to write more. I can’t thank you enough for sharing a moment of your life with me and I sincerely hope that things will get better for yourself, your girls and Greg. You might just think you’re just an ordinary woman who has to deal with unordinary things but the beauty in your writing is just beyond us all.
    Keep posting and keep those beautiful words flowing.

    You were a real treasure to watch. I’m really happy I went to the Touch Network night and I hope I get to see you again one day for another story

    Natasha x

    • Hi Natasha
      Wow! Thank you so much. I loved that evening and I’m so glad I read the piece out loud, it gave it a gravity even I didn’t know it had. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and that you are writing yourself. Please do send me some words, I would love to read them! My email is in the submissions section

  • Hi Stacy,
    Your words, put out there for all of us, makes me so sad because, at some point, we will be in your shoes and Greg’s shoes. As I’m sure you are feeling now, the mere thought terrifies me.
    Please don’t let anyone tell you there is a date stamp on Greg’s life. It is true, he has cancer, but keeping your thoughts positive, even during the darkest of times, is what will power you and your family through. Greg has made it this far and I sincerely believe that there are miracles (for lack of a better term) in this life. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

  • I’m saddened to the core Stacey.

    I don’t know you and I don’t know Greg. But I do know his music touched me just like it has many others. I’ve stood in the crowd and marvelled at the noise emanating from his band. Greg was kind enough to accept me as a friend on Facebook, I’m just another name in a world of anonymous ships passing day and night and he was kind enough to grant me that ‘virtual’ handshake.

    Like 1,000s of others I donated to the cause, downloaded ‘Valentine’ god knows how many times, all because I thought (and believed/hoped) it could/would help.

    God bless you, your children and your valiant courage to write this. I will never forget Greg, Delays, and the music they made that brightened and still enhances my life. Virtual Love from a virtual friend. x

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