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Dear Sam by Lindani Mchunu.

We launched your dinghy the other day. I got to see your family for the very first time. I wondered to myself how many times has your boy run around the hard and be mesmerized by the foreign objects suspended on cradles, the tall blue structure that seems to shoot to the sky like a long hand. The floating fingers that run across the water and seem to hold everything together.

Indeed your dinghy has your name on it, “Sam’s Dinghy”. It was a sad day it was a happy day, a sombre day and a jovial one. We all gathered in the Regatta Centre. You will be pleased to know that even the Vice Commodore gave a speech. Your close friend and confidant, Elliot the upright man, did what he does best, get on with the job.

The men that you called brothers in blue overalls, who weld and mend our marina, were there too, only this time they donned jackets and ties. Sam, as I looked around the centre, I saw something quite interesting. You may not know this, but I sit on the transformation committee of our club. Before attending your event last Friday, I would have used a lot of complicated words to define transformation to you, you probably would have been more confused by my answers than anything else. Yet now Sam, now that I have attended your event it is quite clear to me how I should define it. Sam, transformation in essence is what I saw in the Regatta Centre, as Elliot paid homage to your life at the club, with the men in the blue overalls.

In the Regatta Centre there were men and women of all colour assembled together for a common cause, to pay respect to you. We were all in that moment just people, doing what people do best, when they are fully present in the moment. People were just being people acknowledging something that we all can identify with, death, loss, longing and acceptance of our mortality. In that moment my colourful words were not necessary. I didn’t have to make another speech talking about why we should bind together across gender, race, class and all the silly divisions we accept in the name of identity.

Zulu felt the same grief as Dave Hudson. Eric was as sombre as Ian Henderson. The men in the blue overalls stood shoulder to shoulder with the men of GENCOM. On this day all the men and all the women and all in attendance had a common purpose. To bid you my dear Sir a farewell and say in a small way, we acknowledge your life, your contribution to our beloved club.

Sam our story at the club is not a unique one. The whole world over, human beings are struggling to do that which will benefit them most. Working together and sharing a common vision. As I saw your son run freely around the hard area, I thought to myself I hope we do right by you. I hope we are able to transform our club in such a way that your son will someday call it home, it will not be a foreign, long lost memory in his mind, a memory of a place where his father worked but no more than that.

I hope your son gets to sail someday and becomes one of the best we have ever seen. I hope the water calls him and he finds the doors of the yacht club wide open to him and his kin. I hope it inspires him to find his space too at Elliot Basin and Table Bay and who knows, dare I say it, I hope he fulfils all the dreams you had and never got to pursue. I hope he surpasses your wildest dreams Sam. I hope your son not only drives dinghy’s like you did, but someday owns a boat and enjoys the club in ways that you could not.

Dear Sam, what I took away from that brief moment in the Regatta Centre as we honoured your memory, was that no matter how bad it gets, there are still enough of us who are brave enough to stand shoulder to shoulder and be vulnerable together. There will always be enough of us who are willing to cross that line of discomfort and present ourselves bare, full of emotion uncertain, not confident in our step, yet willing to take it anyway. In hopes that, if nothing else it will move us further away from a place of division and separation. That single step into the unknown may someday be the step that enters the door into a new world.

Sam Pambili

At times when I write these words it seems like I have my head in the clouds, yet on good days like your day, I see that I am not dreaming. It is possible. It is possible. You brought us together Sam. You reminded us all what we value most about life. We value life Sam. We value life. You reminded us that life is not what we have made it out to be, with all the labels we use. Life is life. A birth and a death of a human being and everything in-between that we value. I hope we can do it Sam.  I hope we can find the path that will lead your son to the waters of Table Bay and beyond.

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