A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner…

Water saves lives – this is an uncontested truth. What often goes unsaid is that the same life-giving source can just as easily take away life. This is all too often illustrated in the new and economically emancipated South Africa. One of the fruits of our democratic nation is that both black and white are now liberated to earn money and rent and/or own property, some of which boast sparkling blue swimming pools.

However, with rights come responsibilities and without adequate training and accountability, these swimming pools, little buckets of water, bathtubs and unattended puddles, as well as our eagerly anticipated annual trips to the ocean, are turning out to be death traps in our midst. Our children are drowning and we are not doing enough to equip them with the skills to navigate these watery pleasure zones. We are not doing our bit to reveal to them that the dangers of their much loved water wonderlands and that the fun they can have splashing in the warmth of spring can pose a threat… water can kill!

There is a general reluctance, especially among people of colour, to teach our children to swim from infancy. Housekeepers are often not trained to deal with the lurking threats of possible drowning. As a mother, I cannot describe the unbearable pain of losing a child. Words fail me. I have been there. You never really get over it; you just learn to somehow live with your fragmented self that remains after the loss. While my loss was not as a result of a drowning, my mind struggles to come to terms with the agonising stats of child drownings that seem to gain momentum at this time of the year. And in many cases, these senseless deaths are avoidable. Let it not be said that one more young life was lost because we let down our guard. Please be vigilant this season! If you do not know how to swim, take swimming lessons and have your children take them too. Join a CPR course and have your childminder do the same! Such skills could save lives and, in fact, do their bit to preserve the future.

In African tradition, you do not need to know someone to share in their grief or celebrate at cermonies like funerals and marriage. Go show your support that we are one united community. Your loss is our loss. I share your pain and I am here to bear it with you. In short, I am because you are. With that said, I would like to close with the words of a stranger whose funeral I attended. She lost her young son. The coffin was so tiny that it took only one man to carry it. He cradled it as he walked closer and closer to the dusty hole. The young childless mother sobbed: “If only I could, I would give everything for one more moment with my son!”

Her moment is gone, but if we do our part we can have many more moments with our loved ones. Water can give life and bring healing again. It really does not have to end this way. We can rewrite our legacies for our children. Be on the lookout, moms and dads! A little bit of unsupervised water is all that is needed to stop a life before it has really begun. Be prepared, extra vigilant and sober-minded. I repeat: water gives life.

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