We’ve once again headed back to a beach for a long weekend, to the beautiful shores of the Pacific Ocean that killed our daughter, our sister. I have always loved the sea: I grew up by the Mediterranean Sea, which is a much gentler sea than the absurdly called Pacific. Peaceful, it isn't!
Those two days by the beach I was watching Clea’s brothers play in the water, how much they enjoy the beach. The first morning we were at the South Coast town where we stayed, they both were so impatient and excited they ran together across the dunes to check out the surf. They are not afraid of the ocean, even though they are well aware that it was this very ocean that took their sister away from their lives, even though they know that this was the ocean that nearly killed them, that could have killed the whole family that Samoan morning in late September 2009.
It took us a whole year to be near a beach again after the tsunami. I remember someone offered their beach house to us a couple of months later, during the summer, only to nod sympathetically when I declined and replied that going to the beach was not my idea of a relaxing holiday. And of course it wasn't just then.
It was Lalomanu Beach in Samoa that we chose to return to, a year later, as we soon realised that it was essential for these two Aussie kids, Clea’s brothers, not to be scared of the ocean for the rest of their lives. What better place than Lalomanu, then? It was of course a very painful thing to do, yet it was necessary. It was the right thing to do.
Clea’s brothers now enjoy the sea. They are not scared of the waves; they were riding the fairly small waves there were on the beach last weekend. They were riding the same boogie board their sister Clea had been trying to stand on in very calm waters, just a few months before the ocean came over the land and drowned her. Clea just loved going to the beach. Now Clea’s brothers scream in sheer delight every time they catch a wave and come rushing towards the shore. They look up and seek my acknowledgement, my approval, my encouraging eyes.
I give them the thumbs-up, and they go back in for more excitement, for more waves, for bigger ones. Some good we have done.
Last week the rope of the boogie board finally broke and could not be mended. But I wanted to keep the Velcro wrist band that was once around Clea’s tanned wrist. The rope can be replaced, and her boogie board can continue to be ridden by her brothers and even myself for a few more years.
Being in the ocean brings mixed feelings. I am not religious at all. I do not think we have a soul, the way Christian religion describes it. I do not think there is another life after we die. Yet I stare at the ocean and I like to think that in that vastness, in that indomitable expanse of blue water, there is perhaps a tiny drop, perhaps a very small dot of something that once was Clea, and whenever we enter the sea, we are somehow closer to our daughter, to our sister.
It may seem to make little sense, perhaps it is contradictory, but it is meaningful to me.