She did it with a smile – Vena Mapu-Finau

Tragedy brings us together. That statement in itself is tragic. When someone dear to us is taken so suddenly we wonder what we could have done different, grapple for the words that can describe our emotions – but how can we ever truly and adequately describe loss?

Why is it that when disaster strikes we ache for one last moment with our loved ones when all along we had ample opportunity to tell them all our thoughts and feelings when they sat just inches away from us?

When my mom passed on in 1993 it devastated our family. We all dealt with her loss differently. At the time I was engaged to be married to my wife and having her near me helped ease some of the pain of mom’s death. But nothing can ever replace the unwavering strength and stability of a mother. She died of cancer. I hated the disease then as much as I do now but I miss my mom even deeper than my insolence for cancer. But I had time to prepare. I had time to tell myself that even though I hate the fact that death is inevitable for all of us, even for my mother. I also had time to wrestle with my faith and found that faith confirmed through the profound truths that I had been taught by my mother, father and ecclesiastical leaders throughout my life. It does not make it easier, but it fortifies us and gives us strength.

Death is a cruel companion that lurks in the shadows and comes for us when we least expect it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011 brought an exceptionally beautiful morning full of life and potential. That joyous feeling that comes with the dawn’s anticipation was instantly deflated just moments after arriving at our church services to hear the heartbreaking news that one of our own, a bright, brilliant, loving and compassionate soul was whisked away from us in a terrible car accident.

There is that fleeting moment that occurs when you hear such news about someone whom you love and respect. That moment of indecision when you struggle with the truth and deny it repeatedly until you realize that you will never again see that infectious smile, feel that warm, comforting embrace or hear that uplifting laughter that warms your heart and gives you faith in humanity.

There are not enough adjectives or superlatives to express what Vena Finau meant to those who knew her. She was a lightning bolt of enthusiasm, a warm ray of optimism, a pillar of stamina and a rock of determination. She was a champion of causes however slight and insignificant and a cheerleader for the oppressed. When Vena spoke you found courage, wit, wisdom and cheer in her words. And if she couldn’t convince you through words that things were going to be okay she would feed you until that indecisive feeling you had in your gut was replaced with food and she could work on your heart and mind all over again with little resistance from your stomach.

She had that rare quality that God only blesses the best of His children with from birth and the rest of us have to learn in life – her compassion and love for people knew no boundaries, no limitations. She treated the stranger on the street with the same respect and love as the person with wealth. There was something about Vena that drew you to her because she exuded a positive energy that comes naturally to people who have an intrinsic ability to give unconditional love without the expectation of being loved in return. Whenever Vena was around you wanted her to hug you close and tell you that things were going to be okay.

She raised a beautiful family. They are her legacy. They are her testament to the world that life is meant to be lived with passion and a commitment to be and to do good for the human race. We will miss her tremendously and there is no doubt that she had so much more to give to the world. As a family, me, my wife and my sons consider ourselves lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from Vena. She was beyond a doubt, a true believer by living the principles that others preached and she did it the best way she knew how – by loving everyone in all of their imperfections in the moment, in the present. And she did it all with a smile.

‘Ofa lahi atu Vena! We will miss you dearly as we pray for the prompt recovery of your dear daughter Pianola and son Kinga.

38 thoughts on “She did it with a smile – Vena Mapu-Finau

  1. Will you share this on Facebook? This is perhaps the nicest tribute to Vena I’ve read. Be sure to tag Pudgie, Narnar and Vena in on this.

  2. We Thank you for such a beautiful tribute to my little sister Ravena! She was such a joy to have in my life…I will never forget you!!

    1. Thank you Amelia – It was a privilege to have known her in this life. May you find comfort in your time of need. Vena was one-in-a-million.

  3. Iam brought to tears as I read this tribute to Vena. Thank you for sharing, indeed everything you have eloquently put into words is the person we know and love. Thank you & Much Alofaz, Kelepi & Family our thoughts & prayers continue to be with you all during this time…..

  4. This is such a beautiful tribute to aunty Vena! *tears* You’ve said exactly what we’re all feeling…THANK YOU!!

  5. I met Vena in Carson with her beautiful sisters. I don’t ever recall seeing her without a genuine smile from ear to ear each time we met. What a beautiful tribute you wrote and thank you soo much for sharing.

  6. Beautiful!! Thanks for writing this!! It truly is right on Point about Vena. She was/is an amazing woman!

  7. So my sister Rosie Afo & I were at auntie vena’s house helping yesterday. When Rachel Palepale pulled us to the side & shared your blog about auntie vena with us. And on behalf of our families both the Mapu-Finau Clan thank you.. Words can’t express how much we appreciate your comments & testimony. Keep up the beautiful blogging it truly does have an impact on all of us. We know our auntie vena is grateful. Alofa tele Ova Afo

    1. Thank you so much Ova! I can tell you from the popularity of this post that Vena was loved by SO many people. She will always be in our hearts and your families will always be in our prayers.

  8. Beautifully told. Hopefully we can meet one day so that when I depart from this life you can write something as heartfelt about me as you have eloquently spoke of Vena. Much love to the family and their recent loss.

  9. This is an absolutely beautiful article. I have no idea who she was, but I feel from your well put words that an angel as left the earth. My condolences.

  10. i am one of Ravena’s privileged sisters/cousins on earth…i was on google & googled her name & found this article…THANK YOU…if you would please not mind me copying it & sharing it with my family on FB…Vena helped raise my children, was one of my best friends & was always there for me with a smile & a hug…i have so many sweet memories of her & her family, that it is one of that is helping me cope at this time, I LOVE YOU SIS, till we meet again…again “malo”….tolini

  11. Thank you for sharing your wonderful talents with the world and for expressing in words what many of us are feeling. The loss of a sister is great, but the love that will carry on in her name is the true legacy. Vena Mapu-Finau was a wonderful woman who touched so many lives! We are so grateful for the times we had with her and for those that had the privilege of knowing her…you should smile a little brighter during these sad times, to honor her loving spirit! I know I will. Much ‘ofa to her children, grandchildren, husband, all her sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews & especially gra-ma Nola. We love you and please know you are in our thoughts & prayers.
    Till we meet again sister, much ofa…

  12. Thank you for sharing! If you would kindly send a copy to my email, would greatly appreciate it. But yes, Vena Mapu-Finau was truly an extraordinary Woman of God! We will dearly miss her! WE LOVE YOU VENA! Ia Manuia Lau Malaga! The Thompson, Tela & Mamoe Families – San Pedro, CA

  13. Uso, wow, what great talent you have. Thank you for sharing. I was just thinking of Vena this morning and googled her name to find an obituary and came accross your blog. Thank you uso for such wonderful writing. It was also awesome to see you last night at the Woodbadge Fireside. Keep up the great work. Alofa atu mo oe ma le aiga. – Sim Tiatia & Family

    1. Hey Sim,
      Thanks so much for visiting and for your comments. It was great seeing you the other night and I hope that we can meet up again soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s