Last spring she stayed at our house. My daughter slept soundly but Shyrin woke at midnight. “Don’t worry, darling”, I told her, holding her close, “it’s OK.” A few weeks earlier her mother had fetched her at nine because she couldn’t fall asleep. But that night she was OK, just as I told her, and she woke with the dawn, a smile on her face.

Shyrin and her mother aren’t in the newspaper anymore. There’s no news, nothing to say. But they’re still the baseline of my days, present whenever my mind stills.

As the images and death tolls fade my thoughts grow more detailed and more frightening. I wonder what it feels like to drown. I read about the warning signs of a tsunami and wonder whether they walked out towards the withdrawing ocean to gaze in wonder at fish and crabs struggling against suddenly dry sand. There’s a photo of a child in a hospital that looks a little like her, my daughter tells me with joy. I cry and laugh and then later, in private, dismiss the rumour as wishful thinking. But hope is hard to stifle, though it’s muddled by fear when I imagine life, alone, injured, with strangers, for a brown-haired child who was frightened at midnight, safe in Bergen, staying with her friend a few hundred metres from her home. She speaks nothing but Norwegian. If she’s alive I hope somebody holds her and tells her she’ll be OK. “I would go there and do anything if it were my child”, people say, and I nod and agree and lie awake at midnight thinking I should go and find her myself. “Your place is looking after your own daughter”, they tell me. I have never exchanged more than a smile with her relatives, there are others doing what can be done, I think, would it be an intrusion, what could I do, anyway. I don’t know.

“She has to be safe”, my daughter says. She’s doing fine, my daughter, I suppose. She hopes, thinks, talks. At school she and her classmates made cards for Shyrin’s father and grandmother. On Tuesday there’ll be a market to make money to help the victims of the tsunami. “We’re going to bake a cake, mummy”, she tells me. I study cookbooks to find the perfect expression of my love for my own child and for her friend who is missing.

But I can’t protect her. And every time I hold my little girl close and tell her it’s going to be OK I’m going to wonder whether it really will be.

8 thoughts on “going to be OK?

  1. jill/txt » found

    […] 005


    They found Ole and Kirsti’s bodies, and they think they found Shyrin’s, too. Still identifying. I’m not sure what I’d expected to feel. What I&# […]

  2. steve

    A friend of mine, a travel writer, was scheduled to be in Thailand soon after Christmas. Ten days ago, I was sure he wasn’t set to arrive there until the New Year, and must therefore be safe. But the longer I wait for him to return my phone calls and emails the more my panicked mind convinces me otherwise. I know where his parents live, and could track down their phone number, but as much as the speculation pains me I’m afraid to find out for sure.

  3. Jill

    He might just not be answering because he’s travelling in safe places… Oh dear. Has the US made the list of missing Americans public?

  4. Toril

    Jill, when I read about the loss of your daughter’s friend I am
    left absolutely devastated! I can’t even start to imagine how this
    loss feels like. I woke up this morning after a horrible dream
    about losing a child, and I have been heart broken all day long.
    As a mother, like yourself, I can imagine how the loss of a child
    feels like, but I hope and pray it will never happen to me, but
    at the same time we must not forget to help our friends when they
    need us the most. My girl-friend’s son just died of a brain
    tumour, and she is absolutely devastated. The world sure is a
    challenge to live in at times!!

  5. Lisa

    The right response to this seems elusive, but it must involve hugging my children. A transatlantic hug to you would be better than this, but this is what we have.

  6. Jill

    Thanks, all. This morning’s resounding feeling is a deep thankfulness that my daughter and me and my boyfriend and mother and sister and family are all safe. I love living.

  7. […] r be older than eight. Of course we knew, we’ve known for ages, but it’s still completely incomprehensible. It has to be. If I fully comprehend this little girl’s death, how can I ever let my […]

  8. Elisabet Veland

    RT @jilltxt: My daughter's classmate would have turned fourteen today. She was lost in the tsunami the Christmas she was eight.

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