ROB Armstrong is a big believer in community.
In the wake of his wife Christine’s tragic death in a shark attack on Thursday, Rob has been supporting and strengthening the Tathra community – and receiving boundless support and strength in return.
Rather than retreat into the grief he is fully entitled to, Rob has been an incredible pillar of support for many in the town.
On Saturday morning, after two fruitless days of searching for Chris or her remains, Rob led out a group of swimmers in a tribute dip on Tathra Beach before it reopened to the public.
“I don’t know what you could see from shore, but many of those people were trembling as they walked in,” Rob said yesterday.
“Then we got to a certain distance and a wave came out of nowhere, knocked us over and we just laughed and went ‘bloody Chris is playing with us again’
“And then the laughter started and the joy started.
“The joy and the smiles – you’re recapturing your life.”
Rob also spoke at Saturday night’s Tathra Surf Life Saving Club’s Nippers presentation.
He said he loved looking around the room at the region’s future lifesavers and urged them to get back in the water.
“The mood was ‘we don’t want to go back in the water’.
“Then after that the mood was ‘when are we going back in the water?’”
Rob said one Nipper had declared to his mother he’d never go in again, but Saturday’s talk had given him the strength to grab his board and head back out.
“We went down to the water today and swam, all of us together because that beach is the same beach we love and we’ve enjoyed and we’re lucky enough to have here in Tathra as it was the day before,” he told the Nippers.
“So I want you to honour Chris, honour this club, and most of all honour yourselves.
“Get back in the water to enjoy it, to love it and most of all to remember to hug the person beside you as often as you can.”
Rob has had countless messages of support and sympathy from all corners of the country, but said he has also made time for those he knows are hurting as much as he.
“There are some people who have the ability to come to you.
“Others are in so much pain that they just can’t face it and those particular ones I know and slowly but surely we are catching up.
“This morning I ran down the street to someone who I knew, because of past history, would have been beside themselves and the relief was palpable.”
Rob said supporting others gives him strength – and that that strength comes from Chris.
“There are two people in my life who are the strongest people I’ve ever known.
“One was my mother…and Chris – they reckon you marry your mother!
“That strength comes from being able to love unconditionally.
“People are thoroughly decent and are hurting.
“I’m not doing it for me, but the effect of it makes the pain bearable.
“Like the kids the other night [Nippers], they are so beautiful and so honest – I walked away feeling elated to see the change in their faces and also the relief.
“Chris is up there and doesn’t want anyone to be unhappy, doesn’t want anyone to be afraid, doesn’t want anyone to lose what we’ve got here in Tathra.
“It’s [community] a very special thing we all hold dear.”
A memorial service for Chris Armstrong is being held on Tathra Beach on Monday at 8am.
“It’s a memorial for Chris, but it’s a counselling and healing session for the community,” Rob said.
“They are the people I live with, they are the people who are supporting me, those are the people putting their arms around me and I feel their pain.
“I have my pain, but they have their pain as well.
“Together we will get stronger.”