This blog post is a tribute to Olataga Palelei - who lost her battle with cancer last week
Till we meet again :-)
Carole King began her career in the 60s writing songs with her former husband Gerry Goffin. She is responsible for penning some of the most memorable songs of modern times (1955-1999). I first became familiar with her music during my teen years when I would regularly visit the public library and withdraw all of the volumes of sheet music that I could get my hands on. My piano teacher at the time was pressuring me to improve my sight reading and I found that the ingenious way for me to do this was to play songs that I enjoyed listening to on the radio (easy listening was a favourite, particularly the emergence of pop music after the rock'n'roll era). There is a musical featuring her extensive repertoire of songs, poised to celebrate her life entitled Beautiful: A Carole King Musical.
So far away
Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore
It would be so fine to see your face at my door
Doesn't help to know that you're so far away
My earliest memories of you were at church. Being the same age as your son Puni, meant that we would be in the same Sunday School classes growing up and we even attended the same intermediate school. One thing I do remember about you was not being in one place at one time. Your gregarious nature and larger-than-life personality meant that people could hear your laughter before you entered the room. You never suffered fools and always spoke your mind, irrespective of whether you considered that you spoke out of turn or not - your confidence was unparalleled. I admired this about you and I think it's that type of quality that women are afraid to embrace - you had no problems in that arena.
Long ago I reached for you and there you stood
Holding you again could only do me good
Oh, how I wish I could
But you're so far away
I vividly remember one Christmas play where I played Mary (must have been before I learned to play the piano, because once I learned how to play, I didn't play any biblical characters after that!) and Puni played opposite me as Joseph. Puni was very shy and soft-spoken. He was able to deliver his lines during rehearsals with your encouragement but on the big night, on Christmas Eve, I think he got stage fright because the church was packed out, so you came onto the stage to deliver his lines for him. That sense of wanting things to get done, regardless of how it was going to be done - that was just your way. This persistence or insistence, taught me about being practical and having high expectations to be at my best.
One more song about moving along the highway
Can't say much of anything that's new
If I could only work this life out my way
I'd rather spend it being close to you
In my teenage years, you always took an interest in what I was doing in life when you saw me. The conversations would centre on school, if I had a boyfriend (we both knew that was a waste of time subject, yet you persisted in asking). If I played for church on any occasion, you always made your opinion clear about my performance. It was always a relief to get your seal of approval, and this was always solidified with a slap on the shoulder while I continued to play songs for people to exit the church building.
I played for your family service on Sunday night and burial service on Monday morning. I first learned that you had passed away while I was in Christchurch for work. I was privileged and honoured to pay tribute to you by playing the hymns for your final services.
You would've been extremely proud of your kids. They really did you proud and were strong for you, despite the pain. The beautiful photos of you and your family in your final weeks - were definitely a sight to behold. It had been a long time since I had seen Monte and Willie again. I miss hearing Willie calling out in church services on Sundays. But I know if your loved ones could work out life their way, they would most certainly want to spend it being close to you.
Travelling around sure gets me down and lonely
Nothing else to do but close my mind
I sure hope the road don't come to own me
There's so many dreams I've yet to find
I hope that you continue to watch over your children and your grandchildren. The most poignant part of Vao's testimony was about your teachings and life lessons being her mother, as she will carry those lessons into her own raising of your granddaughter. Your nieces and nephews paid wonderful tributes to you with their eulogies and performances as well. In your final months, I know that you spent those precious hours with your dear friends and loved ones, cherishing the time together and reminiscing about treasured memories.
Rest in peace Olataga.
I hope that I will have as much zest for life as you displayed in your rich yet brief lifetime.
I believe that I have so many dreams I've yet to find, so in remembrance of you, I will find them and live them.
Manuia lou malaga Princess xx