Ros Thackurdeen’s 19-year-old son Ravi, a pre-med student at Swarthmore College in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, was studying abroad last year in Costa Rica with 17 other students as part of the Organization for Tropical Studies/Duke University’s Global Health Program. On April 29, 2012, Ravi was taken to Playa Tortuga in the Osa Peninsula, where no lifeguards were on duty and no warning signs were displayed. A rip current dragged Ravi to sea, and his body was discovered by a fishing boat on May 1. Ros and her family still feel the loss every single day.
A year has passed. But the raw pain, the intense personal horror, the chaos and confusion, the total shock and disbelief, the depression and the sadness that we feel remains incomprehensible. Our all-consuming pain and our deepest longing is for it to simply not be true. They say time heals. It doesn’t.
The loss of a child is by far the greatest loss one can experience. Many books have been written on the subject, but none fully capture the pain. And somehow, the rest of the world seems to just move on. We will feel this loss and grief forever, our sense of purpose gone, our laughter gone, our joy gone.
We will never forget seeing our beautiful boy as he was when we found him, and the pain we feel every minute of every day is killing us. We took care of him for so long, day and night, taking him to appointments and sporting events, snuggling and reading books to him, giving him goodnight kisses. Then we woke up one day and we were told he was never coming back. All his stuff is still here but he is gone. His bedroom is still here, full of memories. The empty chair at the dinner table is still here. His favorite spot on the sofa is still here. All these things stare empty at us. There is no getting away from it. Our beautiful Ravi was only 19, and he was an independent bright young man, with his future stretched before him like a carpet.
Our hearts sank when we received the call. A hole opened up and closed over us. We live with the vivid memories of the details, of the horror of the search for our son, of the inconsolable crying, the trauma. His lips stilled forever. I would never again see him smile or hear his laugh. My life was over and I knew in that instant I was also dead inside. In the meantime, I just exist, going through the motions of living. To this day it feels so very surreal. We still feel he will simply come back into our lives.
We feel so hurt in knowing that we were unable to protect him, knowing he was calling out for help. I cry, I hurt thinking about the immense fear he must have felt, thinking about the pain of having his breath shut off, how he fought for life. Rav treaded water for more than half an hour. He was brought on a celebratory trip by Duke University to Playa Tortuga. He was wading in hip-height water when he was pulled out by a rip current. The tourists on the beach said if they had a piece of rope, they could have saved my son. Those responsible for him on the trip watched him fight for him fight for his life and listened to his cries for help. With no safety gear or working communication devices, nobody could help.
I didn’t get to say goodbye with bear hugs, kisses and me saying, “I love you more!” The pain of only knowing my son was in this wooden rectangular shaped box, unable to see him. The pain of seeing him there will be forever with me.
Every day now, we see the pain in his siblings’ faces for not having their brother here. They don’t know what to think of the world now. Everything that we have taught them about goodness in the world, caring, justice and being fair, has been shattered. They do not look at the world with their same childlike eyes. They have lost their sense of security. The daily chores we do only places the grief on hold. Then it comes back.
What a joy he was and such a clown, a self-taught pianist with an enormous smile, his warmth, his enthusiasm, his passion. Friends, he had so many and they all flocked to our home. We loved this. We were so close and we loved him so, we had such a bond. I just want to see my son’s beautiful face, and his cheeky smile and feel his gorgeous curls. Just one more time. He is gone from our daily lives but always in our hearts and thoughts. Normal is gone for us; we feel such an emptiness.
In the year since we lost our son, we have looked into why it happened. We learned that drowning is the second leading cause of death in Costa Rica, which is notorious for rip currents, according to Francis James Smith, an oceanographer who earned his doctorate studying the deadly phenomenon. We learned that even an Olympic swimmer cannot resist the pull of a typical rip current. We learned that the following people, like our son, also lost their lives to rip currents.
Dr. Brian Sumner,
Brian Anthony Maltez
Dr. Robert K. Herbert
Rhiannon Joy Hull
Alfred Kobe Storay
Richard A. and James M. Campbell
Marcus Maurice Mack
Gabriel Eric Moore
Marshuan Braxton, Mississippi
Garapaty Sthitha Prajna
Skuglud Mauricio Alberto Acuña
Scott W. Schneider
Dean Hugh Heywood
Erik L. Downes
City Noelle Jones
James Erik Smith
Aly Zain Lakdawala
Jeremy Porfirio Garcia Barboza
*Actor Danny DeVito nearly drowned in a rip current on a family vacation
We learned recently that the U.S. Embassy in San José has strengthened a warning about rip currents on its website.