29 Sep Our stories – a fire of pleading hope.

Our stories are like a fire of pleading hope lit in the wastelands of half-forgotten things.

29 September, 2017. Samoa – Today is the 8 year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated many coastal villages in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga. It’s a day many try very hard to forget because it’s so painful, but it’s also a day that many want their children and grandchildren to always remember. In tribute we share the following, from the author of the book ‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi’, a book dedicated to the memory of all those who lost their lives.

It’s been said that if history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. Why is it so important to record and share our stories? In answer, I’d like to share with you an account from the book ‘Pacific Tsunami – Galu Afi’.

On the first night after the tsunami struck, a mother who had lost her daughter asked of her family a difficult thing – to make a fire in the midst of drowning wet. It was a fire of pleading hope that called to a little girl taken by the wave and still not found.

The mother explained, “All the houses were ruined so everyone had gone to stay with their families in other villages. But we were the only ones that stayed here because I wanted my daughter to come home. I told my husband and my kids to make a really big fire so that she can see her way home, so that she wouldn’t be scared in the dark.”

Hope burned as a family waited for a daughter that did not return. Her body was found the next morning in the mangroves by Robert Toelupe and tenderly carried to her mother’s waiting arms.

I have interviewed more than 150 tsunami survivors but it is the image of this mother which has never left me. A mother sitting beside a fire in the midst of the wasteland that was once her village, not wanting her child to be lost and alone in the dark.

This mother’s story has had a profound impact on me and my family. I have five children. When I am tempted to be short-tempered with them, I remember what this mother told me, “Don’t take your children for granted, be with them as much as you can. Appreciate all the time you have with them. Everybody is saying to me, that I’m blessed because now I have a guardian angel in heaven – but I would much rather have my daughter here with me.” I remember her counsel and so I try a little harder to be patient and positive with my children.

This mother asked of me, one thing in return for her story.

She said, “I want everyone out there to know how grateful we are for their love and support. There were so many people – even strangers – sending us messages of comfort on the internet and praying for us. I miss my daughter so much, we have fixed up our house but it still doesn’t feel right because she’s not here to share it with us. It helps me to know that so many people out there are caring and hurting for us. There is no way I can thank all these people. They’ve been so supportive to me and my family. Please tell them in your book – thank you.” I promised her I would.

There have been many challenges involved with writing this book and whenever I became discouraged while working on this project, tempted to say forget it, I would remember my promise to this mother, And so, remembering that, I would forge on, more resolved to ensure this book was completed.

This mother’s story and the story of her love and mourning for her child – is now contained in the book ‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi’ and countless people and their families from many different nations will now be able to share in her sorrow and be profoundly impacted by her experience. There is safety in the remembering and valuable life-saving messages in the stories of survivors. There can also be healing in the sharing of such stories.

I pay tribute to Taitasi Fitiao’s strength and courage in sharing her story. Taitasi – I never met Vaijoresa, but I will always remember your love for her.

Our stories are like a fire of pleading hope lit in the wastelands of half-forgotten things. They can burn brightly in the darkest nights of hopelessness and sorrow. When we remember, and preserve the stories of our loved ones, we honor their memory and the legacies of love they gave us.

When we share our stories– not only do we nurture the flames of remembrance – but we also make it possible for others to learn from our experiences. When we share our stories, we can find solace and comfort in others.

The accounts in this book are heavy with sadness, loss and suffering. But they are also filled with many examples of great courage, faith and hope in the midst of much adversity. Yes, some of the stories will make us cry – but when we share and listen together, it can make it better.

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