Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Grandmother's sunset

The morning's ritual is to raise the sun over the horizon. But for my grandmother, she drew her last breath, and never saw the sunset this day.

Fale daughter of Matai'a, the wife of my resting Grandfather Leo and the mother of my Dad, died a peaceful death this morning in the village of Vailele, Samoa.

I found out via a text message from my brother, I was sad to read the words, but not sad in a way where I personally knew her, because I didn't. Honestly, my first instinct was knowing that this was going to leave a dent on the bank account, and that in itself was disappointing. But I felt sad that I knew she was the mother of my father, and through the stories of my father, the character of this story had turned it's last leaf.

However, there were two encounters in my life where she was present in person, where I could touch and smell her, and hear her passive voice. The first time Fale and Leo flew to New Zealand and stayed with us. I distinctly recall that she made my chairbag at primary school. It was probably the most oddest looking chairbag in the room because of it's brown/yellowish Polynesian pattern and texture. I was five then, and the second was a tad over a decade later when Dad and Mum took my brother and I to Samoa when I was 16.

On both encounters I didn't really get to know her and hear her mind. Although in both I learned that she was industrious, enjoyed the old crafts, and that she was incredibly superstitious. After my brother, Josh and myself walked back to my grandparents house in Vailele (on a dark night), she warned that we shouldn't "walk the village at dark times because that's when the Spirits are about". Mind you it was 8'o'clock in the evening, and none of us responded, in respect of her convictions. However I remember hearing dad as we walked to our sleeping mats, trying to explain to her that we didn't see this Spirit world quite like she did, and elaborated. Other times it was awkward trying to talk with her as she seemed uncomfortable, and I respected that also given the boundaries between child and adult in the Samoan culture.

She was a quiet woman, of few words. She fussed about little things as Samoan women do, and she had a very subtle smile, just enough to communicate that she liked me. At Leo's funeral, she held herself together pretty well, and she took in instruction from my dad well too after Leo's passing (dad being the eldest son, and child).

But I never really knew her, not like some people I know, who know their grandparents well. I knew her through stories that Dad and Mum shared with me. I'm sad because the stories speak of a woman who took care of eleven children, and ensured they were fed, clothed and taken care of. Who braved the loss of four of her children to leave Samoa in order to help the family. I'm sad because if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here, and neither would my kids. I'm sad that I couldn't fill the gaps of the different parts of her life that I heard of, and that she couldn't read my blogs and Facebook status' to find out just a little of what I'm about. We really didn't know each other, not in person anyway, but in stories.

I cherish the stories of Fale Samani, stories last forever. I mentioned earlier that she turned her last leaf.....maybe the story doesn't end here. The story should be continued through those who heard it. Yes, I'll tell my kids the same stories I heard. So that they may know her too. The character will continue in this story until she rises again at the return of the Son.




  1. She will find out what you are all about . . . and I'll bet she'd be proud :)

  2. Thanks Lisa. Apparently she was? I'll never understand, it must be a grandparent thing.