Since the Irish Times doesn't feel it necessary to bother reporting the damage currently being done in the west of Mayo, I shall supply some highlights.
They've had non-stop storms since the New Year. 100 mph winds. 100 foot waves. No power. Yet another headed their way this Friday.
My cousin Samantha died of cancer in 1992, at age 20. Across the street from my grandparents' house, down the Gallaghers' driveway, you can access the shore of Achill Sound, and wander around in the sand dunes. Not far from where the road ends at the sand, there is a huge rock just hanging out in the middle of the beach, "SAM" carved into one of its sides. We call it Samantha's rock.
After these storms, there is no more Samantha's rock.
I bate being this morbid and sentimental, but sometimes you have to.
I was only seven years old when Samantha died. She was one of the older cousins and not in my clique (you know you're Catholic when there are so many cousins you actually have cliques), so I wasn't as close to her as some of the others. But I still remember feeling a sense of loss when we heard that she had died. We hadn't even been home for that long when we got the news. We had gone to see her in England not long before, because the doctors had said she didn't have much time left.
I don't remember that whole trip to England, but I remember seeing Samantha. We had spent time together before then, but I was too young to remember most those times. That visit to England, though.... I'll not forget it in a hurry.
Samantha had no hair. She hid that fact under a scarf, but I saw her take it off and readjust it and put it back on, and I think that's when I realized she was really sick. I was only seven, so I had only a very basic concept of sickness, and no concept of death.
But Samantha didn't act sick. I thought she was pretty and fun. She was kind, and she acted happy and lively, and she showed me her collection of hippo toys (she loved hippos), and when I told her I loved cats, she gave me one of the stuffed toys she kept on her bed.
I still have it.
Even though we weren't that close, I still felt this crushing sadness when I found out she had died. I had seen her alive in England only a couple weeks earlier.
Her birthday is February 17th. I realized today that Samantha has been dead longer than she was alive. A bright candle snuffed out long before her time.
We'll never forget you, Sam. Your rock will always stand, no matter where the storms take it. <3