[Sponsored] What happens when the last breath stops? Read an excerpt from The Blackridge House by Julia Martin

Jonathan Ball Publishers has shared an extract from The Blackridge House by Julia Martin.

The Blackridge House is a meditation on belonging, of the stories we tell of home and family and of the precarious footprint of life.

‘What a finely crafted text! The narrative keeps sharpening its lenses until one experiences what is hardest to grasp: everything is irrevocably interwoven – but miraculously so.’ —Antjie Krog

‘The Blackridge House is a quiet masterpiece – a page-turning story told with deep empathy and insight, in limpid prose.’ —Mark Gevisser

Read the excerpt:

A cough rips through again, and her forehead creases. It’s like watching clouds moving across the sky, like the face of a baby as the feelings form and dissolve. Once more, the wind is howling. Once more, the breath moves in and out. Another cough tears through and subsides. How things drop away.

What happens when the last breath stops?

The long days roll on. Words and stories settle into silence. The television has become a shrine, with the picture of the Blackridge wildness stuck across the screen, the branch of lichen and Sophie’s little rabbit made of shells resting on the top, and an offering of red roses and golden chrysanthemums at the base. Lying in the bed with her, I put my head against her breast as I used to when I was small. Her chest is bony, heart beating loud and slowly within.

Her teaching now is quietness and the sounding breath. Not knowing is nearest. In the luminous gap between the worlds, the rose shrine is my beacon. The children have said their goodbyes.

On the last day, Sophie packs lunch for me to take to the nursing home. It is the first time she has ever done such a thing, and I can feel the generations turning over. The day is long and warm, midsummer. The syringa tree is dappled with sunlight. Pigeons and squirrels visit the verandah. Roses gleam at the foot of the bed. Resting in the quiet space of her dying, I visit the garden where the bright old koi are so big you could hug them, wrap arms around their generous bulk and dive down slowly into the dark. Their soft fish mouths meet my fingers at the surface, nibble at the edge of the deep.

In her bed, my mother is breathing. This breath, our breath, the single thread of effort and attention that keeps her with us.

The room is quiet. Translucent. Nothing to do but what is here.

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