I wrote the following post while living in Melanesia last year, after hearing of the death of a friend and colleague overseas.
A Reefside Requiem
A friend died the other week. Like most of my friends these days she lived on the other side of the world, so I would be hard-placed to call her a close friend. She was the sort of friend that another friend might say, “I was just in Dubai last week and I ran into so-and-so, and they said to say hi.” My default response to this is usually to think, “Bugger, I really need to send them an email.” She was the sort of friend who used to receive essays like this when I sent them out on my mailing list for people interested in my travels to read. I probably have a hundred or so friends like that. I imagine she did too.
Carol passed away in the back of an ambulance on the way to hospital. She had recently returned from a long flight, and it’s thought she had a blood-clot that worked its way loose. As with the death of any young person, it was a little shocking, and very sad. Carol was on the sunny side of thirty-five. It was frustrating to think that as an aid worker, she had toiled in refugee camps in the war-torn Balkans and eastern Chad, with displaced people following the Bam earthquake in Iran, in relief camps in Asia after the Boxing Day Tsunami, and countless other places I couldn’t begin to list off, yet it was a blood clot a few millimetres thick in southern England, just minutes from high-quality surgical support, that finally took her life.
When Mike and I got the news, we took ourselves away from the office for an hour or so and found a quiet bench above the reef at the top end of town beneath the palm-trees, overlooking the Coral Sea. It was sunny and bright. The sky was blue with wispy white clouds. We could see across the bay to the jagged outline of the Finisterre Ranges plunging into the sea opposite. The water sparkled as it drifted with the currents. The palm fronds cast dark shadows that moved backwards and forwards with the breeze. I sat with my legs dangling and swung them slowly back and forth. Mike sat with his soles flat against the dusty ground. Mike has longer legs than I do.