In Memory of Christine Louise Sinclair

Chris as a little girl on a farm in Ontario

I have no photos of Chris except for one single distant shot of her and Marjan sitting on a Land Rover at Victoria Falls National Park. But a month ago I received a CD from her sister-in-law with some childhood photos of Chris, including the one above, as well as several news accounts of the Victoria Falls Incident. Some of this material will eventually be used on this site. But most of it I haven't looked at yet. This seems strangely ungrateful, even to me. (A similar delay occurred in February of this year, when I received a copy of the Three Journeys manuscript; it sat in my living room in plain sight for 3 weeks before I finally opened the package.) The reason for such hesitation, as far as I can tell, appears to be a strange quirk of my memory: for some reason, memories of that particular month, May 1973, seem to be stored differently from memories of my other 689 months. When May 1973 memories emerge, they tend to be accompanied by emotions that don't seem to really be mine. Not all of these feelings are horrible, but some are definitely illogical.

I've considered the possibility that I might have been in love with her. But before I reopen that memory vault again by exploring the CD, I want to refute that notion now while my mind is still behaving rationally. Once the vault is open, emotion may triumph over reason again and convince me that I was in love with Chris. The evidence indicates otherwise:

  1. I knew Chris for only 10 days (May 5-14). On 3 of those days (May 9-11) I never even saw her.
  2. Chris was aware that I had a girlfriend in Michigan.
  3. In general, when a friend dies, one's memories of that friend become fonder. A close friendship might be remembered as love.

The Victoria Falls Bridge on May 13, 1973

One of my regrets from May 13 was that the hike into the gorge with Chris occurred with only one frame left on my Kodak Instamatic. This meant that upon reaching the bottom, I had to choose a view for that final shot. I chose the second gorge (upstream) with the bridge, not the third gorge (downstream) with the power station. Chris did not descend the final 40 feet with me because of the steep dropoff at the end of the ravine we'd followed down. The view from the ledge where she sat to await my return from the river's edge was obscured by trees and the rock walls of the tributary ravine. All she could see from there was the rock wall of the Zambian side of the river directly across from the ravine. So when I climbed back up to Chris, I promised her that I'd mail her a print of that slide after the trip. [This was during a technologically primitive era; had our hike occurred in 2007, I could have just whipped out a cell phone to show her the views down both gorges, plus the view up the ravine to the clump of trees where she waited!]

As it turned out, I never did send Chris a print of that slide. But I now dedicate this digital reproduction of it to her.

Paul Terpstra, Springfield, Illinois, USA

Updated September 30, 2007