Dear Tuka Atu,
It’s been almost five months since you left us, and I can’t even begin to explain how the time has passed for me. I have days where I still think you’re around, days where I say your name as if you’re still in the village, and then I have days where I remember you’re gone, and I just cry.
You left me on my first day of work. I was sitting outside Westminster Abbey, passing time and sending up a prayer to God – a prayer of gratefulness for my new job, and a prayer of care for you. Little did I know, it was during that same moment, that you were being sent up to God too. I guess you can say that maybe you escorted my prayers up that morning.
Your homecoming service was so beautiful, the weather was perfect and all the people you had made time for in your life, came. I’ll be honest, my Fiji trip was a blur but I’m so glad I could go. I watched the family during the funeral, and I knew that we all felt the same way. It didn’t feel real to us.
I thought of Mum and her brothers, I thought of Bubu, and then I thought of you. How could you have gone? You’re always there, sitting on your chair with your crossword, or on the porch. I was waiting for someone to take all the mats and people out the house, so you could come out of your room and go ‘Bula Sainimili, mai kisi vei Tuka’. I was waiting for Mum’s phone to ring so she could tell me that you had called and were waiting for us at Wishbone for lunch. I was waiting for you.
Even though I kissed you one last time at the mortuary, I couldn’t help but replay the last time I saw you earlier this year. I had come home after my Master’s graduation. You and Bubu had prepared mats and masi for me. That day you told me you were so proud of me, and apologized that you did not have much to give, but asked us to accept this as a small gesture of your love. I, excitedly and ignorantly, told you to wait for my wedding next year, and you told me.. ‘I don’t know if I’ll be around then so that’s why we’re doing this for you now’. I guess you and God had already had conversations by then aye?
If I could, I would go back to that day and hug you all over again.
Earlier this month it was Remembrance Sunday, and all I could do was think of you. I walked past the Cenotaph, and there were two soldiers walking on the opposite side of the road, and mid conversation, I watched them, almost automatically, salute and march past the Cenotaph. I thought of how much discipline you showed us, how particular you were with some things, and how a big part of you was being a soldier.
So before I continue, I wanted to say two things to you.
I’m sorry for listening but not hearing what you had to say to me that day. I’m sorry for always referring to you as a grumpy old man. I’m sorry that we were always sometimes too serious to understand your carefree and mischievous ways and I’m sorry that I never got to say all these things to you.
Thank you for teaching me how it important it is to listen to what my old people say. Thank you for showing me not to take life too seriously. Thank you for making that sacrifice for us, your family, all those years ago, so that now, when you’re gone, we are able to live here in England and reap your blessings. God is definitely a generational God. Thank you for keeping a diary, I know now where I get it from. Thank you for keeping all your old photos, I have brought them back to England with me.
And lastly, thank you for showing me the importance of living in the now, as tomorrow is never certain. So many things have changed since you’ve gone.
Mana and I have moved the wedding sooner, because although I had planned for all of my grandparents to be there, God had other plans. You would have really gotten on with him Tuka.
Mum and I are closer, but she misses you terribly – don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye on her and Aunty Oro and I will her funny jokes every now and again.
Bubu also misses you too, we aren’t too sure of how she’s dealing with it, but we know she must talk to you and God often – I’ll give her a hug for you, Kabani.
Your sons also miss you, and the rest of your grandchildren, but I know we will all be alright.
We had a soldier as the head of our family. He was a free-spirit who sacrificed so much for us. He showed us hard-work, sacrifice and love for his family. And he also taught us that only two things fall from the sky. Paratroopers and….(I’ll let you finish that joke).
I miss you so much Tuka, but I know that you’re always near. I’ll be looking out for you next month, and sending special prayers to you.
Love you, always.