Sonali Deraniyagola writes about the tsunami of Dec 26, 2004, off the coast of Sri Lanka, and its devastating effects on her family. She, on the morning of Dec 26, while vacationing in a national park on the coast, lost her two sons, aged five and eight, her husband, and both her parents. She writes, seven years later, of her reactions and experiences chronologically in the subsequent years.
Her large extended family in Colombo, Sri Lanka, served as her combination therapy and suicide watch for her first three and a half years. Gradually she revisits her hotel site with her in-laws. She finds a costume belonging to her younger son (who loved to dress up), a sports shirt from her older son (who loved sport of all kinds), and a page of research from her husband who was writing an academic article. Her children’s school in London donated money in the name of her sons for the refurbishment of a small wild life museum in the National Park next to the tsunami site. All these actions were comforting to her in the healing process.
Gradually Sonali returned to her life in London as an economist and researcher. She finally reunites with her sons’ best friends and their mothers in London. In her works “I see my children’s friends often now. They are bubbling over when we meet, I enjoy their sparkle. And they make my boys real, so they are not beyond my field of vision, as they were in those first years”.
What will my sister and I talk about when we discuss this book? Like Sonali, we have memories that are special to us and that we want to keep forever. Sonali comes to the conclusion that, in her words about her sons, “…I can only recover myself when I keep them near. If I distance myself from them . . . I am fractured”.
I think this book gives us all permission to hold on to our happiest and most significant memories even in the midst of our busy everyday lives. These are the memories that make our journey in life unique and worth it.