About this blog

My only daughter's name is Clea. Clea was six years and nine months old and she was enjoying a family holiday in Samoa when the ocean surged as a wall, ten metres high, and drowned her. Many other people died that morning of 29 September 2009.
The other four members of her family survived the tsunami.
Life has never been the same since. It will never be the same. This blog features memories, reflections, poetry, etc...
Just let me stay with her under this moon,
hold her in my arms, spin her in the air,
with my dear daughter in some timeless swoon.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Unfinished Business

The screen grab I have reproduced above shows Clea’s scoresheet for game tasks completed on her Lunnis CD-ROM. The disk was a present she was given by her tía Mayca, and from the very beginning she found it very enjoyable and wanted to play over and over again. The games on the disk have been designed to teach the player all sorts of skills in Spanish, and are divided into three stages, for different ages: under 4, over 4 and over 6 years of age. Clea had completed almost all the tasks; only a few remained as never attempted or successfully completed. Clea was not given the time to complete the scoresheet.

Grief feels like unfinished business, too. Just like the tasks Clea was not given time to complete, the loss of your child is like a wound that will never heal completely. When someone does have the guts to ask, I always tell them that the blow has softened after two and half years, but the pain the blow caused remains exactly the same as on 29 September 2009. It is unfinished business. On the one hand, you are painfully aware that you cannot turn back the clock. On the other, as much as you would want to turn forward the clock, it will never be the same. Some sort of limbo, a timeless swoon. Trapped forever in a time and state you do not wish to be in, unable to get out of the dark, exit-less tunnel your life has become: you cannot go back, you cannot go forward.

I guess this is a very widespread misconception amongst people who have not experienced the loss of a child, a traumatic, irreparable loss, that the bereft parent eventually will get over it, or even ‘has to get over it’.

I recall a telephone conversation around Christmas 2010, a little over a year after Clea’s death in the Samoan tsunami. In this particular, very brief conversation, the person who then wished to talk to me (it escapes my comprehension that some people decided it was OK to call me while I was visiting Spain but would not do so before: it’s not like telephone calls across the world are that prohibitive, are they?) asked me how I was. I hardly replied, I think I said "How do you think I am?", and this person (a relative) said to me: “You have to get over this”.

I think my silence was the most eloquent response I’ll ever make. You just do not get over the loss of your child. Ever.

On later reflection, however, what I find most revealing (or is it disturbing?) is the way the caller resorted to a rather vague word such as “this”. It is such an unclear, equivocal term! What exactly is (or was) “this”? It brings to my mind the title of Francisco Goldman’s book about his deceased wife Aura, Say Her Name. That’s what I feel like yelling to people who tiptoe about the subject. SAY HER NAME! HER NAME WAS CLEA! CLEA DIED IN THE TSUNAMI!

For someone who has lost a child, “this” is deeply offensive, because it aims to create a distance between the person speaking and the deceased. Our child had a name; our child had a life; mentioning our child’s name does not hurt us: it is our child’s death that has hurt us beyond repair. Underhanded approaches conceal cowardice; there is no respect in deliberately avoiding saying the deceased’s name.

She was my first child. Her name was Clea Soledad Salavert Wykes. She was six years and almost nine months of age when a tsunami struck the beach of Lalomanu and drowned her. Her family were all very close to perishing. She could not complete all the tasks on her Lunnis CD; she was unable to obtain the antidote to save the inhabitants of Luna Lunera.

1 comment:

  1. "Trapped forever in a time and state you do not wish to be in, unable to get out of the dark, exit-less tunnel your life has become: you cannot go back, you cannot go forward."
    You've captured EXACTLY how I feel since the sudden passing of my son. I'm now caught in a nightmare from which there is no escape. It's agonizing. I'm so sorry for your loss of your beautiful Clea and I wish that I did not understand your loss so well.


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