Yesterday, my friend, Dr. Janet G, emailed me and said, “that may be we are free-er than we think we are.” She recalled the things she did this time in the past two years and found they are incomparable to the things she loves and enjoys doing now. She hardly feels restricted in one form as there are many other things she can do. It got me thinking that this is quite true with me. This past year had gone by fast because there were so many changes and exciting things to do.
I woke up Monday morning to find a message from my daughter, Seluvaia from New Zealand, informing me of our beloved aunt Vea (paternal uncle Viliami’s wife). My father’s two youngest brothers and their families live in subdivisions in the family Lot. Although they are extended families to us, they are part of our immediate family. The extended family in the Tongan community’s fabric is as close as the immediate family. They physically live in the same house or same land allotment, or the same village. Family events like funerals and weddings can draw the extended families from other towns and islands to gather and support and be there for one another for family events. They are family reunion events. Because of covid-19, Tonga is still covid free, and they had locked down their borders from outside visitors. They allow only two flights a month in and out of the country. Thanks to worldwide communication, the funeral service was live-streamed by the family yesterday for their two sons in New Zealand. It also allows me to watch the funeral service, which was at our village’s church ( Free Wesleyan Church building).
My eyes were blinded with tears to see the faces of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I saw my seventy-one-year-old frail uncle, SeleUaine (great grandfather’s name), the village people, and Pastors, most of them soaking wet from the rain. They all gathered in the church on this rainy day to honor aunt Vea’s life. The sound of hymns sung in acapella reminds me of the old familiar sound of soulful songs in community worship; my heart unconsciously had missed.
It was heartwarming and encouraging because the community is there for the family. The church choir was fantastic. It was still raining when they left the church to the graveyard. The procession to the cemetery was on foot, for the cemetery is not far from the church. As a Tongan custom, we mourn and show respect for the departed person by wearing black for ten days or longer when we are out in public with a particular funeral mat around our waist.
Pre-Covid time, I had met many of the people in my village when I attended my relative’s funerals in the neighboring states. Attending funerals is an unexpected expense and takes time off work; I find watching a funeral in a live stream on a smart TV from my living room’s comfort is more freeing with no expense than attending the funeral.
Although some restrictions limit us from physical gathering in places, we find ourselves busy doing what we probably would have time to do and experience pre-covid times. I believe this is true for many of us, too, I have spent more time on my knees in prayers. Amen.
Pastor Kalina Malua Katoa