The meaning of the tsunami day on 29th September 2009

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HEAVEN-BOUND: The late Kiki Moanalei Apelu, one of 147 people who lost their lives as a result of the tsunami of 2009.

HEAVEN-BOUND: The late Kiki Moanalei Apelu, one of 147 people who lost their lives as a result of the tsunami of 2009.

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Lumepa Apelu

I looked down at my daughter, fondled gently with her long hair and felt the pain of life close me into a dark lonely corner. 

On the right of me, I could see, dead bodies being carried by shattered men onto large blue tarpaulin. The dead children, women and men, tourists, elderly too, were being loaded onto a truck that would deliver them to Apia, to the morgues. 

I sensed the pain in the truck drivers and the loaders of the truck, for the gloomy day was stretching over all of us like a wet blanket.

The sound of crying from the living was perhaps like the music of angels wailing.

I still hear the melancholy in it when I close my eyes to see my Moanalei. She lay there so peacefully with her eyes closed. Though her body felt like marble stone, I sensed her heart was warm and trying to cheer me up. There is a space between life and death where the living converse with their passing loved ones. 

I think that I was placed there when I sat with my drowned daughter on my lap looking up at the sky.

The yellow sun beaming through the breaking clouds seemed to hear the breaking of my heart. I felt the need to fly, all of a sudden. I wanted to escape from the green of Samoa. I wanted to run from the pain of tsunami survivors, to a heaven she was heading to. 

I felt the urging need to grow wings and to fly to a far away kingdom promising the forever sun. 

The sting of death on such a day for our people, overwhelmed me too. I could feel the tears of Savaii children running for shelter anywhere, in fear of the rumbling earthquake. I wondered how they would fare too. I wondered too if there was a mother like me and a child like mine dead in her helpless arms. 

It dawned on me, that the island I live on, was/is a small one. 

The islands of Samoa, beared the faces of my country fellows and strangers but, who all felt like my big family, though I know only a small fraction of them. It felt like Samoa, my beloved country was crying altogether with me. 

But earlier and soon after the wave hovered over us, when I saw the thieves of the tsunami day stealing from the suitcases of the dead, as we forged through the muddy waters looking for our loved ones, something inside me grew agitated with poverty, the want for things we do not need, our mindless greed and the heartlessness in it. 

I wanted to cave into the closed arms of wealth. 

I longed to wrap up the helpless souls of the greedy to enable them to see from my deep eyes; for I was somehow granted insight on the whole meaning of death. 

Death is merciless and it does not need our approval for anything. It will steal our happiness in a moment and leave us empty for many days. But that is just the surface of it. 

The deeper meaning of death is like a seedling struggling to break the topsoil of life. It is the point to what keeps us together, as individuals and as lovers of the world and the things in it.  

How death can bring people of a nation together, without them speaking to each other, is what makes this tsunami day a day to remember always. 

It is a day to remind of our one heart, as Samoans, and as honest members of a planet that seeks answers for its endless agony. It is a day to know that what lies deep inside ourselves, is worth knowing about, because it empowers us most of all to become a better people for each other. 

It is a day to excel in the moral fibres of our humaneness. It when we can be convinced most of all that this life is meant to be lived with a compassionate purpose only. It is a day when the godly and the ungodly are one and the same. 

It challenges us to look beyond our daily lives, and our mundane things, our cultures, our skin color, our wealth and or lack of it and our best and worst behaviour. It is a day where we can just be who we are because we are faced with death, and nothing else. 

To hold it is to hold suffering closer too so yes we must also let it go. 

It is a selfless day because while we remember our loved ones, we also have to remember the ones who live, to heal each other’s wounds together. 

No one person whose loved one died that day is spared of the duty to make this life a better place for tomorrow. For we all learned on the day of the tsunami the meaning of cherishing our loved ones, our country, our planet and ourselves. We had our eyes and hearts opened. We were made to bloom each by each, from the hovering gloom of death. 

So if you were to be brave to ask me the meaning of the tsunami day, without worrying about my tears, I would say to you with a smile, “ it is the day I knew my beloved daughter, Moanalei, was a gift. And such is life. Everything in it, sad or happy, is a gift, always.” 

Have a reflective and peaceful tsunami day Samoa. 

God has already blessed you, please wear it with humility.

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