Today is the eighth anniversary of the deadly tsunami in 2009 which struck the south coast of Upolu, killing 143 people. Columnist Lumepa Hald’s daughter, Moanalei, was among the victims. Today she pays tribute to her in this piece:
When September comes, I bow my head with sorrow. And I take a deep breath remembering the tsunami. It was when I learned to accept the need to let go.
I will remember the wave covering us like a black strangling sky. It was a vacuum of living things, people included, and we were at the mercy of the sea and the hill behind us. If we were screaming, only the fish from a distance could hear us. The longest sound of sorrow lives in there.
To let go from your own fingers, your own spirited, and beautiful child, is the most horrid thing one can do. But I do it every September on the 29th at 7 in the morning. Tonight I will sleep thinking about my daughter intensively. I will wake up remembering the moment I told her to come out of the truck because the sea was acting strange and sudden. I will think of my panicking hand in the ignition of the truck. And I will recall the wave I never had the courage to look in the eye. But the sound of the wave rings in my ear many nights. I will remember the whole haunting sound of it. It sounded like a long sad life was coming.
Tonight I will think of my daughter’s long hair and her worried face. I will hear her voice calling out the word I long to hear the most of all, “Mummyyyy.” When she died, I took to a dark corner in my own mind and sat there in my loneliness for many days, months even. There were sure signs she was around, in the form of whispers and butterflies. She told her sister, in a dream, she was happy. But I became numb to belief. I became as hard as stone. I was as an egotistical nomad content with nothing to own.
But stones are emeralds too. When you lie still in sorrow, you can feel without being told the pain of others. Empathy not formal education becomes your crown. You know deep from your loneliness, if you are earnest, that the gift of giving love begins from a grief so deep it burns you. Have you heard of the phoenix and her fiery glow?
Sometimes people say with good intention that my late daughter is my angel. I smile quietly like a humble woman who has seen it all, for the surface description of death is never good enough. What loving mother can ever accept the sacrifice of a beautiful child such as mine? Who needs angels when our children start to die? I am as selfish and as human, like any loving parent. I too, do not want my child to die.
Much like you too, as lovers of our dearest country, the hollowness of such a day should also remind of the need to let go when someone you love dies. For the people we love, are more than a moment, and even more than death and life combined. Our beloved ones are souls traversing the spaces unsaid of in the universe.
I took to poetry to reach out, to make sense of the pain and to endure the notes my broken heart makes. I cannot sing out loud this fire in my soul, but it is getting sung anyway. Nothing can hold back my emotions from crying out loud. From this I believe, that no king on earth can cease the fire of love from spreading any which way it wants to go. So whatever the world is suffering from, we must go inwards to find it all out.
Tonight, I will sit again in my loneliness to wait for her. I will see her coming to me with her open arms, to hold me close, and to tell me that courage is human too. Any my courage tells me that I must let go, and live a life for others. I must be brave to understand, to accept and to be a comfort to someone else in need. For the memory of my daughter, I will always remember today as her gift to me, where I learned to walk this life with deep empathy!