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In Search of Starfish – A Year On

I never intended publishing the following here but my youngest daughter is as much a part of my life as my eldest…in completely different ways its true…but she is part of who I am, of who I aspire to be …and it is here on my Thoughts pages that I am at my most vulnerable but also my most honest…readers are getting an insight of me and my life…snap shots in time of an ordinary mum who loves both her daughters in ways she never dreamed possible.

I struggle every day with the fact that I can openly talk about Tienne but talk of Saskia causes discomfit and understandably evokes sympathy and often a quick change of subject. I am sure that other people who have experienced the death of a loved one must feel this too?

I have two daughters in my heart…always…

One year on from the death of our youngest daughter…

Tuesday December 28, 2010

Dear Saskia,

I am finding it difficult to comprehend that you died a year ago today…in some ways it feels like just yesterday, so raw are my feelings…in others it feels like I have lived with your life and death all of my own life, so entwined with my thoughts have you become.

I awoke at 12.55 this morning to the house shaking and a strange rumble not dissimilar to thunder…or perhaps an earthquake…I don’t know but it startled me and I was instantly on my feet and running into Tienne who slept peacefully, blissfully unaware. I am now wondering if the shaking and rumbling was in my head and heart but not literal…all I know is that it felt all too real and for that moment my world literally rocked as it so often does emotionally.

I slept very fitfully from then on and finally got out of bed just after 4am & left the house at 4.22am – not sure why I glanced at the time really but it was not lost on me that this was approximately the time that you died.

My drive to Redgate beach was almost trance like…on reflection a bit dangerous… not because of speed as I was driving quite slowly but because I arrived at my destination not really knowing how I had got there and despite my lack of speed it felt like I had almost flown…such was my state.

I still had my wits about me to lock the car and worry about snakes…my will to live is strong again both consciously and unconsciously. I stomped down the narrow path to the back beach, passing the rock where I sat with you the day prior to us going into labour. A smile lit my face momentarily but I couldn’t bring myself to sit there this morning…my feet moved on…

Straight to the place where your dad and I set you free, my feet felt like they traced the same steps almost and some small crabs scuttled in my wake, just as they did nearly a year ago. The ocean was reasonably calm but the wind whipped at my head. I unconsciously drew the hood of my top over my head – I can remember feeling surprised it was on a little later on…

I sat a while, dialogue to and for you spinning wildly through my head, dispersed with random thoughts of more mundane things…perhaps thrown in to keep me somewhat grounded, I don’t know…my own brain is sometimes a complete mystery to me!

Something willed me up and onwards and I walked up the beach heading north…a stretch travelled hundreds of times with our faithful Lottie Dog, a somewhat comforting thought. And my body slowly warmed while my eyes scanned the beach for a starfish or other signs from you…

I found the tiniest crab claw and a tear formed, although I didn’t sob as I sometimes would. A tiny crab; who like you died far too soon. Broken shells littered the beach in patches…broken and scattered like I so often feel myself. I found myself picking up shells that I wouldn’t usually…imperfect shards that caught my eye, which I stoked to feel their texture…sometimes placing them back, sometimes holding onto for a while and then carefully placing them in my pocket. I spied a shell that instantly reminded me of the chambers of the heart, two small shards of different shells lodged within the heart chambers…just like you and Tienne my precious baby…always in my heart…

I walked on…past the huge russet orange washed boulder which has stood proud for millions of years…past the sheltered cove where Lottie and I found a small whale washed up many years ago…to a spot where my heart told me to stop for a while…and I did, sitting on a smooth rock that slowly warmed where I sat watching a very large fish (or small shark) dart here and there and a lone seagull circle for a short time. I was worried for the fish at one stage as the rocky areas surged and bubbled with the white wash of the waves but soon realised it was very much living…just feeding… not dying.

Walking back I found the perfect, simple starfish in a rock pool – in my mind – and left it there to recall as needed in the future. Of course it didn’t stop me looking, despite knowing I was unlikely to find a starfish on a beach that I had walked many, many times with never any evidence of starfish…despite what happened to you I still believe in miracles and I’ll continue to look.

I clutched the heart shaped shell in my hand and kept it there even during my drive home…

The drive home was slow as travel home often is. I tried not to but couldn’t help turning to look at the car seat where you would have sat. I knew you wouldn’t be there but I still find myself doing this regularly…wishing…just wishing…

You still are the surge of the ocean, the flight of a bird, the grace and liveliness of the monarch butterfly, the serene beauty of a starfish and the wet sand that tickled my toes as I walked up the beach this morning…you are the gentle eyes of a mother kangaroo and the innocence of her Joey…the twinkle in your sister’s eyes…

You are the beat of my heart and the heaviness of my arms…you are and always will be with me today and forever…I will never truly get over the feelings of loss I feel for you but that is okay as long as I make sure I remember that I have also found things since your death…gifts you have given me and for which I am grateful.

I love you Saskia Rose Pethica. Happy Birthday beautiful girl.

Post Script: A couple of days later I discovered it was indeed an earth tremor I had felt…somewhere in the vicinity off Redgate Beach.