Monday, October 5, 2009

70: Tsunami (The Funeral)

Tsunami: Funeral

It is always tragic when a child dies. Yet somehow I feel that Falevalu's death is a little more tragic because she died evacuating for a tsunami that didn't hit our side of the island. If she hadn't evacuated, she would be alive today. Of course, there was no way of knowing that on Tuesday.

When the tsunami warning and evacuation warning went out on Tuesday, Falevalu's father loaded his daughter and eight other students into his van to drive them inland, away from any possible tsunami. Something went terribly wrong during his drive in land resulting in a car accident that injured several students and killed his daughter.

Today was the school funeral service. I was told the family had some service on Friday. There was also a service this morning. The teachers and a selection of students for a choir gathered at my school at 2pm today and left for Falevalu's house at 3 pm. We waited outside the house for the arrival of the casket, which carried inside by male teachers.

The pule asked me if I had my camera to take pictures of the school magazine. I did indeed have the camera, but I was incredibly uncomfortable about taking pictures. I asked the pule's wife when would be a good time and she said that any time during this service was find and that it would be good to get a picture of them carrying her into the house.

The service consisted of several prayers, a sermon and several songs sung by the student choice. It all took place in the family living room where Falevalu was laid out in an open casket.

After the services were over, the school presented the family with an 11x17 print out of the "in Loving Memory" poster I had created and an 11x17 print of her class photograph. There was also an envelop of money. In return the family gave envelopes of money the minister who did the sermon, the minister who did the prayer, the minister who led the choir and the minister who is the school pule. From what I could tell there was then a check of who else money should be given to and all the other minsters in the room were give an envelop with money.

Tsunami: Funeral

After that people began to exit the house and I went with them. I was stopped and asked if I had a picture of Falevalu in her casket. I did not. I was sent back in the house and a path was cleared for me to the body so I could take a picture. I noticed that many students and teachers were coming up to kiss her.

Tsunami: Funeral

Finally, the family distributed a truck load of food and water to the students and the school. We took it back to the school with us to eat.

— Sara


Teresa said...

How awkward for you... there are not many cameras seen at funerals in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

This is a sad time and we send our condolences & respect to the families who have lost their loved ones. Sara - thank you for helping the family keep the memory of their loved one. Your human kindness is wonderful and inspiring. Fa'afetai tele ia oi ma Cale.

its just moi said...

this is definitely one of the more akward traditions that is considered normal in Samoan culture. Its as if, those who never took photos of their loved ones when they were alive, attempt to take one last photo of them before they depart forever. Even if that photo is kept in an album that hardly ever gets is just part of the way Samoans say goodbye

Anonymous said...

Hi Cale,

I was a volunteer in Satitoa. I lived with Teo's Family from 2003-2005. This has been a heart-rending few weeks. I was happy to learn that Teo and his family are OK. They were a wonderful host family. If there is a way to get ahold of them I would be indebted if you could tell me. Also, I am trying to organize a fundraising effort here in Ann Arbor, MI. I was hopeing to get as larger format of some of the photos that you posted so that I could make a poster for the event. Would this be possible? My email is thank you so much for all of the concern that you have shown through your has helped me feel more connected to Samoa.

whatever said...

I agree with one comment. It's not awkard to take pictures of a funeral, because Samoans didn't have cameras, only those who can afford it, but the famililes sees it as a lasting memory of that person(this instance child)because they will never get to see her grow up. So you did a huge favor to the family. Faafetai.