Wedding bells, babies… and the Tsunami

Posted on September 29, 2013


Yesterday I had a premonition.

Well, I think it was a premonition. Either that or a spookily bizarre coincidence of thought.

I thought about an old university friend who I don’t really speak to anymore, I think I thought about her because I was reading a book about a lady who lost her whole family in the 2004 Tsunami, and it made me remember my own experiences of the wave in Thailand. And this particular friend, had been there with me until a few days before.

She popped into my head, along with her boyfriend at the time who she’d been travelling with, and I thought to myself – gosh she’s been with that new guy a really really long time, but they’re not married yet are they.

Then I just logged onto facebook, and she had announced that he popped the question last night.

And whilst I was at it, I found myself snooping through the comments on her facebook status update and saw one there from another uni friend who I don’t speak to anymore, and could see that she’s had a baby. A really cute one at that. The friend request I sent about 6 months ago, still sat there, completely ignored.

I never liked her all that much anyway.

Ok, that’s not true, hah. We were good friends at one point. I’m really not sure what happened for us to all grow apart. Or maybe it was just that, we grew apart.

But it felt a bit weird seeing all my old friends growing up on facebook, but without them actually being in my life.

I appreciate that everyone grows at different stages, and whilst my focus has been on some pretty big personal stuff this past few years… I can’t help but feel, well, a bit jealous.

My life totally changed on 26th December 2004 and since I read that book last night called ‘Wave’ by Sonali Deraniyagala, I haven’t stopped thinking about the sort of person I was back then versus who I am now. I feel like that girl, whilst relatively grown up at aged 24, was in some regards a very different person. Or least, the pieces that came together to make her were ordered differently.

But that morning of Boxing Day 2004, I hadn’t realised what huge a responsibility I was going to bear when I ended up being in a place that was devastated by the wave, but a tamer version of it. Ko Lanta’s Tsunami wave took out all the huts and bars on the beach, but for some reason ran out of steam quite quickly and retreated.

A few people died on Long Beach, where I was staying in Ko Lanta.

But thousands of people died 23 kilometers away on the island of Ko Phi Phi.

And to put it in perspective, in northern Thailand the whole town of Kao Lak was wiped out, a popular holiday resort with European tourists, the final death toll reported to be 4,000.

Sonali Deraniyagala had the sort of family I want some day – a loving loyal, interesting and worldly husband, two beautiful, bright and funny children, an extended family of aunties/uncles/grandparents in a split-location world on two continents, one in north London and one Columbo, Sri Lanka.

Sonali, who was holidaying with her husband,two sons and parents in the Yala National Park on the south east coast of Sri Lanka, lost everyone that day. Her book is a hazy series of flashbacks to the horrendous and happy, scanning over ten years of her personal memories.

I remember that day so vividly. Whereas for Sonali it was the day where she feels her life ended. I was given my life to keep.

It’s hard to get your head around when you’ve been involved in something that 230,000 other people don’t make it back from.

I didn’t lose anyone.i Unlike so many others, for me I was merely caught up in a dramatic scene from a real life movie. So grateful to have made the choices I did that led me to a relatively safe place, I haven’t ever really been able to understand the forces of god or nature on this one.

I just want to live a life that all those people would be proud to see me live.

The life that many others had taken from them, even the ones that survived who simply won’t ever be able to get that life back.

I’m trying.