I couldn’t sleep one night for thinking about my mum. It was the dark 3am of the soul except it was closer to 1am, and I lay there in a torment, thinking about her, and what kind of son I was, and when we were a family, and what she may have felt and gone through – mother of six, in a small seaside town, abandoned by my father, that cad.

I wished I had talked with her more. I wished I had been at her side when she breathed her last, although my brothers were there when that happened and they said it wasn’t great. She did not go gently into that good night. I wished all the things you wish when someone you love is no longer there and you can’t reach out to them, you can’t really do anything. You lie in the dark alone with your thoughts and you keep it all inside.

Or you get up and you make yourself a cup of instant coffee and sit at your keyboard, and you start writing. The first words I wrote were: Dear Mum.

I wrote five letters to her.  They were written like I was talking out loud – talking to the dead is perhaps a symptom of madness, but it passes the time – and I thought the best thing to do with them was to talk them out loud on the wireless. 

In the studio at RNZ, melodramatic as ever, I asked for the lights to be dimmed - it’s amazing I didn’t ask for candles and incense. I bent my head and didn’t look up and read the letters out loud, in the dark, communing with Doris Irene Braunias. 

Braunias family 1

Trevor, Jenny, me, Mum, Mark Photo: Steve Braunias

Steve Braunias

Steve Braunias Photo: Steve Braunias