Moorabbin Hospital, Melbourne, July 2006

In 2006, SingStar was all the rage in our neighbourhood.  Children and adults alike loved the competitive music video game but being an anti-screener, I preferred our children to be riding bikes in our cul-de-sac or drawing with Derwent pencils.  When my sister was diagnosed with inoperable cancer early that year, I relented and purchased SingStar so that we could enjoy a singalong together when I was able to be at home.  I could forget all my worries, forget all my cares just for a little while.

For my birthday that year, we took the PlayStation to my sister’s house so she could sing with us.  She chose Downtown by Petula Clark as her song, and we all laughed at the mondegreen Listen to the rhythm of a gentleman in Britain which made so much more sense to a five-year-old than the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova.  It was a joyous day, and the last celebration we were to have at home.

The next day she was admitted to hospital and we did our utmost to transform her room there into a home-like space – playing kd lang and Clare Bowditch, stringing up prayer flags, displaying photos and singing.  Her two closest friends and I tried to remember the words to Downtown but could only ever recollect a few snippets.

On her last day in this world, one of the nurses came into the room and handed us a piece of paper.  She had downloaded the lyrics to Downtown, probably in exasperation at our feeble yet frequent attempts. Finally, we sang the song in its entirety.  At the end, my sister laughed – such an effort at that time – and we all laughed until we cried.  We said our goodbyes and retreated, leaving her with her partner and children for her final breaths.

I still like to think she went Downtown: Happy again – the lights are much brighter there.

 Stereo Story #580

Thirty Grieving Stories

Jacinta Harper is a Community Development Worker in Melbourne. In terms of writing, Jacinta says she mostly writes lists.