The Facts of Your Body by Ava Robinson

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Your autopsy was performed at 9:20 a.m. on June 30, 2013. I was 25 years, 3 hours and 50 minutes old. It made me think of the times you woke me at exactly 5:30 a.m. on the day of my birth to tell me, “You were born exactly <insert years> ago today.”

You were born once too, you know.

You were here.

I had to look up the definition of “coffee ground emesis,” and instead of shuddering at the thought of blood-stained vomit surrounding your crown like a halo, I felt closer to you than I have in years.

What does that say about me?

Death is due to acute aspiration pneumonia complicating mixed drug toxicity, the autopsy report reads. Obesity played a significant role in the death. The manner of death is an accident. I roll my eyes at the assertion that your body weight played a starring role, and I think to myself, Fatphobia truly knows no bounds. You choked on your vomit; that’s the fact.

I scroll down and read the section titled, “General Description Clothing/Effects.” They note the anklets that you always wore—and by always, I mean for the 24 years and 363 days of my life in which you were here. This makes me smile; and I can still hear those anklets tinkling in the distance as you made your way to the kitchen to refill your coffee.

These are the facts. You were here.

They remark on the weight of your organs, and I imagine what it would have been like to hold the weight of your heart in my hands instead of bearing the weight of the questions I never got to ask you. Step aside, I want to tell them. Let me do it. I knew how to be gentle with you even when I hated you for it. I decide to print the report so I can feel the weight of the paper instead. They say that your rigidity is pretty well developed but easily broken, and I want to tell them yes/and. I watched you rise a hundred times for every time you fell. I guess they’re right when they say sometimes you go down and stay down. I never thought of you as easily broken but tender enough to leave marks. I can’t stop thinking of the marks their examination will leave on you.

They recorded your irises being hazel, even though you always said they were brown. I called mine hazel, but that never sat right with you. “You’re my brown-eyed girl,” you’d always tell me. They’re hazel after all, Mom. The medical examiner said so. I wonder, if the same pathologists were to do my autopsy, whether they would say mine were hazel, too.

They cover all their bases and were nothing if not thorough. All ten of your fingers don acrylic nails, although your thumb nail is slightly broken. Your back is unremarkable. Not an inch of you went undocumented; but for as meticulous and methodical as they were, I want to tell them about the size of your laugh and unflinching temper. I want them to note the 5:30 am birthday wake-ups, the song of the anklet charms against your feet, the way your eyes – hazel, brown, whatever they were – narrowed when you saw something you wanted.

I want to tell them that your autopsy is not a sterile grocery list, an accounting of the facts and nothing more. I want to tell them that it’s a testimony – a gospel.

You are my mother. You were here.

Meet the Contributor

Ava RobinsonAva Robinson is a genderqueer, neurodivergent mother, writer, and owner/class facilitator of Denver micro-bakery Butter Moon Bake Co. She writes for her newsletter, food//and, is querying a food-adjacent memoir, and has been published in The New York Times, Insider, Greatist, and Tagg. For more information please visit

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Sheila Thomson

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