About four or five months after Clea died (sometime in early 2010, it was probably mid-February) I got home one afternoon and found a message on the answering machine. It was partly an offer of employment, partly a request for assistance. The message had been left by someone who I used to work with. Someone who had known Clea, had held Clea as a baby in his arms, had talked to her and praised her. This same person had not been brave enough to call or write to offer his condolences, yet barely five months later he was choosing to call at times when he knew I would not be home.
I did not return the call. The caller insisted a couple more times, leaving messages about this stupid job but not once saying anything about our loss, our trauma, our grief. I never returned the call.
On the one hand, I was not interested in the job I was being offered: I had a permanent full-time position in those days, so there was no way I would have quit in order to take a few hours of tuition as a casual. On the other hand, it felt absurd to return a call from someone who seemed incapable of acknowledging my daughter's death. I know for certain this person knew what had happened to us in Lalomanu on 29 September 2009.
Fast forward three years. Yesterday I saw this person again. He was at the school Clea used to go to, the school where her brothers are receiving an education. This person must have walked past the little plaque by the bottlebrush bush that the school planted in memory of Clea.
One of the things I have learned from having had a very close brush with death is this: I do not need to pretend I like people. I do not need to feign interest in persons I have no interest in. I can speak my mind: I can voice my feelings and can express what I think. I have nothing to lose.
I did not speak to this person. I did not want to. I don't have anything to say to him anymore.