Thursday, 28 December 2017

One sweet day. . .

Sorry I never told you, all I wanted to say. . . 
This blogpost is a tribute to Va'aelua Taloolevavau Malo Va'aelua

Sorry I never told you
All that I wanted to say
Now it's too late to hold you
'Cause you've flown away
So far away

My earliest memory of you was when we went on a trip to Samoa with the youth group in 1984.
We stopped off at my father's village and I remember we took so many photos.  There was a big welcome from the village and I remember my older cousins who lived in the village pestering me to ask my father for money during the festivities.  I remember you in those photos, because I would often look through our family photo albums and you featured quite prominently in them.  The most striking feature about you in a photo is your sheer size.  Clearly the tallest person in the photo, your stature could not be surpassed by anyone else, not even by your younger brothers

Never had I imagined
Living without your smile
Feeling and knowing you're near me
It keeps me alive

I think the older you got, your smile became more apparent and easy to share.
I understood what your sons and daughter said about you in your eulogies.
Your insistence and high expectations that everyone did what they were good at, to the best of their ability is something that I was raised to believe in too.  You didn't give your smile freely.  I used to laugh when I would say hello to you (internally of course!), as I did with all the church fathers, and you would greet me without a smile.  That was just your way.  Praise never escaped your lips easily; it had to be earned.  I would learn this as I got older when I started playing piano for church.  After playing the closing song for the service I would come out the side door and you would walk towards the minister's house lead by your wife and a family member as you struggled to walk.  I would greet you and ask if you were well.  You would answer, "Malo Manu, manaia pese".  That was just your way.  Praise never escaped your lips easily; it had to be earned.

And I know you're shining down on me from heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day

There are so many stories that my father had to share about you at the family service, but he could only touch on the highlights.  We talked about what he was going to say about you.  I had never seen my father prepare for a eulogy as much as he did for yours.  He also had to do the prayer for the service and he worked on his sentiments for that as well.  I think it was a testament for the respect he held for you.  One story that he didn't mention but that I also thought was a funny one, was that sometimes during some church services when a minister would announce a hymn and rather than have accompaniment for it, he would expect someone to sing it a cappella from the congregation.  You knew that you didn't have the best voice in the world, but you had no qualms about starting a song and singing with gusto. 

Darling I never showed you
Assumed you'd always be there
I, I took your presence for granted
But I always cared
And I miss the love we shared

This week has been full of preparations to farewell you. 
To do my part the best I knew how would mean playing for your final church services. 
As long as I can remember being at church, you have been a constant figure.
Your children have grown up alongside my brothers, and each of us has someone in the same age group that parallels with yours.  I was probably more aware of you in my high school years in church meetings and church events that we held.  You were a commanding presence and anytime you spoke the room would always fall silent.  With your physical presence gone, the room will just be silent and empty without you in it.

Although the sun will never shine the same
I'll always look to a brighter day
Lord I know when I lay me down to sleep
You will always listen as I pray

Your children expressed their stories about you in their own way.
It was humbling to see how much each had their own relationship with you. 
I remember attending at least three of their weddings - Faamanuia, Solofa and Fouai. 
I remember Fouai's reception quite vividly.  It was the hall and I was in the Sunday School rooms hanging out with the other kids during the speeches.  I remember playing for Solofa's wedding.  It was at church and only a small gathering was invited.  I brought my friend Mana to sing with me. I was still in the youth group at the time.  I also played for Faamanuia's wedding, and I remember the service was at a church in Ponsonby.  Lapi Mariner sang and we only rehearsed during the wedding rehearsal before the actual wedding day.  You shone like the sun on those days.  In times of celebration, that was when I saw you at your happiest.  You loved to celebrate your children.
When I started teaching Sunday School, Fouai and I taught in the same class.  Soon enough your grandchildren would start making their way through my class.  It was good to see them grown up and speak about how much you loved them - more than their parents it seemed.  But that's what grandparents do right? 

And I know you're shining down on me from heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day

As your family and friends prepare to say goodbye to you today, I just wanted to say thank you.
We have lost a lot of church friends along the way and more recently in quick succession.
I know you will be happy to be reunited with the ones who have gone before you, while those you leave behind will constantly ache for the absence you have created.
I am sure that everyone who has been touched by your acts of generosity, staunch stance on doing what's right and what's best at all times (high expectations) will treasure those memories with you.

Rest in peace Va'aelua.  You will be missed.
I will pray for your loved ones and those you loved the most.
Grief is a personal journey and there is no easy way to get over a significant loss.
As much as they have each other and the support of their nearest and dearest, they will never forget you, and may also be thinking Sorry I never told you, All I wanted to say. . .