The 10th February 2020 marked five years since my dad, Michael, died. On that day we gathered as a family to scatter his ashes in Encounter Bay, South Australia — one of his favourite places.
We chartered a small boat and chose a spot just on the seaward side of Wright Island — referred to simply as “the island” in our family. Dad visited Encounter Bay ever since he was a boy, and rowed to this little island countless times in the small but heavy wooden dinghy that his grandfather built, often with us kids huddled on the sandy seat. Once there he would leap out, pull the boat onto the sand, and search the rock pools for cowrie shells while we peeked under rocks to spot fairy penguins. We would climb together around to plum-pudding rock and marvel at the dangerous pool of sucking seawater, white with foam, that roiled next to it. I would always ask Dad to recount the story of when he fell into that pool and miraculously survived. The gulls would shriek over our heads and we would stand on the little beach and look back to the mainland and spot the family house from far away.
This time was different and sad, of course, but the big rock and the gulls were still there and the sun lit up the salt spray as we motored past in a very different boat. We went for a small cruise to Granite Island, then out to Seal Rock — far too far out to sea for our little boat to ever get to, but an easy motor in the larger boat we had chartered. Then we turned and took a course back past the island to find the right spot. There, near his favourite island, we scattered Dad’s ashes into the calm sea. They swirled and sank gently into the deep blue, and before they disappeared from view they caught the light and sparkled like clusters of stars.