|Photo by Tom Ruen. Lake Superior, Minnesota|
I may have said elsewhere that Clea and her two siblings should really be considered triplets. They are so, to the extent that they were all conceived in vitro on the very same day. Clea was born alone in 2003; about eighteen months later her twin brothers were born at the same hospital where she had been born: the public ward of the Calvary Hospital.
One of the things this means is that they obviously share a lot of characteristics, despite being eighteen months apart and her being the sole female. More than two years after she was gone forever from our lives, I have often been able (but always all too briefly) to see Clea, and I do not mean in my dreams (in which I still see her and feel her, only to wake up feeling destroyed – but that’s another story, if you’ll excuse the cliché). What I mean by this is that I have often seen her mannerisms in her brothers’ mannerisms; I have often seen her smile in her brother’s smiles; I have often seen some facial expressions that were her own, beyond any doubt, in her brothers’ facial expressions.
For the father of a dead child, this is both beautiful and terrible. Whenever this happens, I feel on the one hand that I am able to get an almost true glimpse of my daughter. It is as if she became suddenly alive right in front of my eyes. I feel a strange sense of elation mixed with the most profound sadness. It is a bittersweet feeling; it is of course disconcerting; it is also upsetting.
A few days after 29 September 2009 I received an email that upset me very deeply; it came from a relative I had not seen or heard from for over 20 years. In his message, the researcher and physiologist (by profession) sent his condolences (a sorry typo included! Pardon the pun) and more or less advised us not to worry, because we “would see her again”.
Coming from a scientist, the blatantly religious notion almost infuriated me. Because even if it were true (human resurrection is, to the best of our knowledge, impossible; and as I have said elsewhere, I don’t believe there is an afterlife), it would never make up for the suffering, for this never-ending pain, for the unbearable loss.
I look a lot like my late father, I have been told many times. Photographs are really the best evidence of this, I guess. For many years after my father suddenly died of a heart attack in his sleep on the morning of 20 August 1989, I would often find my mum staring at me, seeing (I suppose) the man she had shared her life with in me.
Yes, I do see Clea in all the photographs we have; I see Clea in her siblings (her twins!); I see Clea in my dreams. Yet I know Clea is buried in the Gungahlin Cemetery. My sightings (so to speak) are mere visions, just that, mirages; and like all mirages, they vanish into thin air and leave you empty, broken, crying.