Friday, September 25, 2009

Life comes and goes

Yesterday we had some very sad news, Teisa who I work with at the Youth Congress, her husband just died the night before. He had a heart attack while he was working in the garden/bush, he was very young only 33. They had two little kids, around 2 and 4 years old. I was actually supposed to meet with Teisa to help set up some computers at the Youth Congress yesterday, but heard the news from our neighbors in the morning. And I had just met with Teisa on Wed. and she invited Brett and I to a barbeque picnic with her and Inoke, her husband, and some other people from Tonga Family Health on Monday. I'd met Inoke a few times and he was always smiling and very nice. It's just so sad that Teisa is now a widow at such a young age (also 33), with two really young kids, they would have been married for 5 years this year.
We also had heard that the embalming machine here in Ha'apai is broken right now, so they had to have the putu (funeral) right away very fast, and had to bury the body within 24 hours. It's too bad, because usually a lot of work goes into a putu here, they spend time making tons of food, having lots of people over to the house for the putu, and sit around singing and mourning. But this all had to be rushed. A lot of people didn't even hear about the putu until it was too late and was already over. We missed out on the putu since we heard too late, but made it to the burial in the afternoon. All day we wore all black and our neighbors gave Brett a putu ta'ovala to wear (mat around his waist). Then we joined in the funeral procession on the main street going to the cemetary right by our house. Inoke, Teisa's husband, had worked as an agriculture/science teacher at the Morman high school, so all the students were there with plastic flowers for the grave. Teisa was wearing a huge woven mat, that went up above her head in the back. And her two kids were all dressed up in mats. We watched as they lowered the body into the grave, then mounded up the sand/dirt pile above it and covered it with plastic flowers. I think Teisa was glad to see us there, I gave her a hug before we left and gave her the real flowers we had brought. She just looked so sad and alone, she sat right next to the grave and everyone else sat farther back. Next week I think we'll cook some food and bring it over to her house like we do in America after someone dies. It's always hard on the families here of people who die, they have to provide lots of food for people during the funeral and for awhile after for anyone visiting, it takes a lot of money. It was a weird feeling to go to a funeral here of someone we knew, back home both Brett and I haven't been to many funerals. But I guess on such a small island death is a part of everyday life.

But with deaths there is also new life and we have two new babies here that I know of. Our neighbors had a baby girl in July, the first girl out of now 6 kids! They named her Mele after a grandma, (Tongan for Mary) but the middle name is Katamaria after my name Kate Marie! So I have a little namesake baby next door, a lot of the time Tongans will even be called by their middle name. She is another clone of the dad and smiles a lot, this is a photo of her below.
My old counterpart at the computer training center also had a baby girl in July, much to my surprise! She hid her pregnancy very well the entire time with baggy clothes, since she wasn't married it was a huge shame to her and the family. Especially since the family is very well known and has a high position in the community. Some of the family living in the same house didn't even know until after she had the baby. So now I know why she was sick so much when I worked with her. The sad thing is that since they're trying hard to keep it a secret, they convinced her to move to New Zealand without the baby! So now she's gone, and her parents will raise the baby for now. This happens more often than I would have thought here in Tonga. Babies and kids also get passed around between family members often. An aunt of our neighbor boys, the oldest daughter so the head of the family, likes the youngest boy so much she tried to keep him and our neighbors had to take a boat to that island to get him back. Often kids will get passed around when a family gets too big to support, or if another family needs a boy or girl to help out with the mens or womens chores.


Rhonda said...

I am SO SAD about the death of your friend's husband. We dined with them that one night and he was such a great guy. They were a young family. Bringing food would be a great thing to do. Do send on our grief over the death. Rhonda and Keith

Anonymous said...

Wow, I was wondering if that was your friend's husband...that's really sad, he was so great and they seemed very much in love. I hope she is doing alright. -Lisa