It was early March, some decades ago, and my young husband and I were having a holiday on the Mornington Peninsula, a favourite place of ours - where we had honeymooned a couple of years before. School children had returned to their classrooms and I had left my teaching job.
We had most of the beach to ourselves.
The weather was still warm and it was starting out to be a beautiful restful time away from work and other responsibilities.
I was about seven months pregnant and didn’t feel like joining my husband as he clambered over rocks that day to find a good fishing spot.
The sun was well up on this lovely early morning but not too warm yet, so I sat in the car surveying the scene of gentle waves breaking over the rocks and sandy shore. I waved to YH (young husband) as he indicated he would go a little further along the beach. I relaxed in the comfort of the car, dreaming of more days like this to come.
A while later, as I stretched a little and sat up straighter to see the shore more clearly, something caught my eye.
Whatever was it?
My mind spun as I took in what I at first thought was a large pig rolling in the edge of the surf.
And, then, horror of horrors, I realised what it was.
It was a body; a human body in the foam on the tip of the gentle waves; moving as the waves forced it to tumble over and over.
I was in the car and YH was out on the rocks, fishing, and the body was on the edge of the water between us.
To reach YH to inform him of what was there would mean that I would have to walk past the body. Reluctance surged through me.
I pressed the horn on the car but he couldn’t hear it over the noise of the sea.
I left the car and began to walk down the sand, not looking in the direction of the body.
I called out, but YH didn’t hear.
Then, looking up the beach, I saw a family – mother, father and two young children - strolling along the sand towards me.
And towards the body.
All I could think of then was that the children must not see what was there.
I began to run (pregnant belly and all) towards the little family, who, on seeing my strange approach suddenly became alert and the father looked towards the object on the waves’ edge.
He must have realised that a serious situation was at hand and quickly ushered his wife and children up the sand-dunes, away from the terrible sight and came towards me.
“Is that what I think it is?” was his greeting.
I nodded, and pointed to my husband fishing out on the rocks, oblivious to what we were witnessing.
As I couldn’t drive, and there was no such thing as a mobile phone in those days, I asked the newcomer to drive our car into town to notify the police.
He was reluctant to do that, but offered to stride out on the rocks to fetch YH, which he did and they both then drove into town, while I joined the woman in distracting the children’s attention.
Before too long, a police car drove down, with ambulance close behind. Ambulance officers ran down to the water’s edge carrying oxygen and all manner of resuscitation gear.
“Too late,” we muttered.
Trying not to watch, while also being fascinated by the upsetting scene, I ascertained that the body was that of a (perhaps) middle-aged woman. She was wearing a petticoat and had a string of pearls around her neck.
The police asked me to look in the nearby ladies’ toilet block, to check for clothes or other clues. I’m still not sure why they asked me to do that, but ask they did and search quickly and nervously I did, with no outcome.
By this time more police had arrived and the body was placed in a bag and loaded in the ambulance, which drove off slowly.
We joined the couple and their children and tried to make light of it all, so as not to upset the children.
The incident made the evening paper, but was quickly passed by, as there was obviously no story to be told.
“No suspicious circumstances”, meaning suicide, seemed to be the explanation.
The coroner’s investigation was held at a time when I was very close to giving birth to my first child and was excused from appearing as a witness, replaced by the family man who also witnessed the sad scene.
I sometimes still think and wonder about the woman who decided to end her life in the ocean; her pearls still around her neck.