I was in the water just to cool off from the sun,
post-snorkelling and relaxing with Izzy,
and the water was below-shoulder deep,
The water on The Rarotongan resort side is gorgeous.
In order to create that aquarium abundance of fish population here,
The locals had gone out to the open sea to catch a large variety of fish,
and let them breed here inside the lagoon.
Sure enough, the creatures we had seen around the corals were wondrous.
Some would change color and flash that different color at you as you get close.
I even got a massive fright from seeing a moray eel for the first time in my life.
It popped out of the coral unexpectedly,
and that face of pure evil look had a life-threatening quality.
I felt like I never wanted to see it again,
but at the same time was so fascinated that I yearned to see it again.
The same frightening encounter recurred just off the beach at my villa in Aitutaki,
I'd memorise the location of the coral that the moray eel resided in,
lined it up to 2 recognisable trees,
twice went back in the water at low tide,
and failed to find that coral again.
When I saw my 1st moray eel that day,
I was like a child when getting back on the beach,
calling out for Izzy, looking for her almost for comfort,
Eager to tell her all the different fishes I saw in the water.
ââIt was within that 10 minute window
of resting in the sun drying up,
and cooling down again in the water,
that I met my first - in the wild, and alive -
a long pointy spotted shell.
I had to google it to know its name,
it's called a âTerebra subulata.
It is gorrrrrrgeous...
So smooth and shiny with the water on its surface.
Black or dark brown spots dotted all over the spiralled columella.
I've never found one in my 10 years of traveling in tropical places,
let alone encountering one that I realised was fully alive as well.
Izzy asked to take a picture,
because it was just so special.
It was also within the 10 minute window after putting this Terebra Subulata back in the water,
to let it go on living the beautiful life in this beautiful water,
that Izzy and I got up to go back and return our fins and snorkel to the rental shop,
and we had lunch with Alex afterwards.
While going along the beach to head to the rental shop,
we came upon a small crowd.
The few people there hovered over an old man,
who was lying on the sand,
his chest all purple,
his body pale and limp.
A strong woman was trying her hardest performing CPR on this man...
I gasped internally and looked at Izzy,
Izzy was looking at this scene, quite calmly.
She is to be a future police woman,
her reaction was steady.
Neither of us had seen a dead person,
we confessed to each other,
but right then and there,
we knew we just saw one for the first time.
"I don't think he's going to make it..." I said,
and softly exclaimed,
"This is probably someone's grandfather...
"This was exactly where I had come out of the water..."
I told Izzy, I swam too far without realising,
and when I did, I almost panicked, because I was exhausted,
I had to pace my breathing to steady myself,
and kept peddling, looked up to see how far the beach was,
and just told myself, Keep swimming.
I made it back alive without drowning,
but this man didn't make it today.
People called for ambulance,
and we saw them waiting for it on the road.
"It'll be here in 10 minutes."
One of them said to us when we approached to ask.
I said to Izzy again though with my usual practical calm,
"I don't think he would make it...he was already purple...
I hope he would and perhaps the CPR would break some ribs but he'd be alive,
that'd be better..."
we got lunch at the bar at The Rarotongan like "life goes on",
we finally ran into Alex, who was meant to be here with us,
but we waited and waited at the Backpackers and he never turned up.
We saw him at the stairwell on our way back to the restaurant,
and there he was.
"Everybody remembers me here!
They saw me and said, 'Alex!'"
Because he got drunk and fell asleep in a hammock
during his stay here 2 years ago for a friend's wedding.
His presence in the dark out on a hammock must have frightened the local dogs,
and he got a terrible bite from the dogs,
the hotel staff had to help him.
So they all remembered him.
I asked the staff at the bar about whether the man on the beach made it or not,
if he was okay... hoping that he might be.
They didn't even know of the incidence from where they were.
They weren't shocked in their response,
when they heard about it from me.
It felt like to me that, here, death is a common thing.
I can't remember from where we found out, later on,
I think it was Alex,
who caught wind of a man had been taken into an ambulance,
and didn't make it...
So this was
our first encounter with death,
while we were on holiday...
I felt sorry for the family that he left behind,
for the sudden event in the middle of their trip here in the islands,
for the special flight they had to take to go home with his body...
for the tears they would shed...
the reaction to the news on his family's faces at home...
for this strange memory every time they were to return to Rarontonga...
I thought of death because of this.
Not of death itself,
but of what it indicates for us regarding life,
i.e. how we are to live life,
in order to make life count,
before death arrives.
When we crave the touch and the feel of an unfeigned world,
I guess I'd rather die in the Cook Islands
than to end my life anywhere else.
I'm sorry I thought of that, but it's true.
I'd like to die here, more than anywhere.
I'd like to be buried here if possible, more than I'd like to be buried anywhere else.
I just don't know if I'd be even allowed to have a plot of land for my burial here.
But I know in my heart this would be a good place to end my life's journey.
I think back on the shell I found,
how it was alive, and I had placed it back in the water...
If our life is the snail inside the body of the shell,
our life would be like the snail.
When the snail is dead and gone,
we leave behind something beautiful that is the shell for others to remember us by.
Whether or not they had known us,
hopefully we leave them a legacy which will bring them a little kind of delight.
Perhaps when we have ended all our roles in life,
it all comes down to that.
A little shell to commemorate our past presence.
We may like to combat disease or even want to cure death.
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