Life, Death, and remote islands...

Life takes many twists and turns. My late father, a retired Royal Australian Naval Commodore, chose to spend the last years of his life on a coral atoll, 10 feet above sea level. My mother had died and he chose to live his remaining years with dignity, in grief, away from the madenning crowd on a little island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, called Cocos Island.

When he first visited the island atoll my sister and I felt that it was a redemptive move as he had nursed our very ill mother for many years. But when he stayed, we were incredulous.

Until we visited the island and saw our father adapting to the very natural, harmonious way that life was lived on this island. He was embraced by the community of local Cocos Islanders…who accepted his moments of overwhelming grief as much as they accepted his unbounded hospitality.

My father grew on Cocos Island, with the many personal interactions he had. He was equally as comfortable with visiting Government Ministers and Senators, and locals who would call out to him on his balcony or call in for a “quick beverage”.

He chose to be buried there, close to the waves and under the skies which had nurtured him as a naval officer, a man of the sea. His funeral was attended by most of the residents of Cocos Island.

Towards the end of his life’s journey he mentored some wonderful locals from the island. One of them, Madi is like my brother…the other, Azmie, was my father’s carer for his last years.

Azmie was lost at sea last Friday while cray fishing with friends off South Island. My heart is full with the grief I know my father would have felt.