We often hear stories of heroic people saving others from deadly situations, but we rarely hear what happens afterward. This is not the case with A.J. Clark.
On June 9, 2001, Clark was swimming at JP Luby Surf Park in Corpus Christi, Texas. He was 10 years old.
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On that day, a rip current caught hold of Clark and nearly drowned him. The only thing that saved him was Paul Farias, a 33-year-old veteran, and a complete stranger to Clark.
Farias saved Clark, but he gave his life in the process. To this day, Clark can remember the man’s face as he was overtaken by the water.
It was an act of heroism that Clark was determined to never forget. Every year since that event, Clark has visited Farias’ grave.
It was, partially, an attempt to keep the story of the man who saved his life alive. As Clark grew older, he started taking his own children to Clark’s grave to keep up the tradition.
But, Clark’s memorial efforts took another level with the birth of his third child. Clark gave his daughter the middle name Pauline, in honor of Farias. He also took her to Farias’ grave to tell her the man’s story, and he will continue to tell her the story every year.
Pauline now exists as a living reminder to Clark of the man he considers his guardian angel. After all these years, he is determined to make sure to never forget the person who saved his life and gave him the opportunity to enjoy the birth of his daughter in the first place.
It’s a remarkable legacy for a man to pass down to his children. Just as Farias deserves respect for saving a boy he didn’t even know, Clark now honors that sacrifice more than 10 years later.
Our actions are not trivial — not all of them, anyway. Our deeds do not die in the moment of their passing.
With every moment, we are writing the notes of our own legacies. Some of those notes will echo long after we are gone.
So it is that Paul Farias’ name continues to be spoken today. In the name of Clark’s daughter, in the story written here and elsewhere, his heroism has brought him a measure of immortality … or, at least, longevity.
In a world of confused meaning and sometimes seemingly existential vacuity, what more could we ask for? And, what more can we bestow upon those who have done something to venerate the value of a child’s life?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I guess is, not much.
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