I had never seen anyone terminally ill until my mother's brother became sick during my teenage years. As an extended family we banded together as best we could to offer my uncle and his immediate family our support in what became his last months of life. In sickness and in death the doors were always open for those who wanted to spend time with my uncle and the family. As other family members passed away, I took the Samoan way of facing sickness and death to be the norm.
Some years later, my father's mother became sick and in her tender age, she began residing at a rest home - something I did not like, although had no say in. After a short time at the rest home, my grandmother became unconscious, and surrounded by her children and grandchildren, she slipped from us slowly, day by day till finally she passed away. In sickness and in death the doors tended to be more closed than open to anyone but family, and even then, there were seemingly unsaid limitations.
From my grandmother's decline in health till we laid her to rest with her husband, I felt like a foreigner living in some surreal reality. The way everything was handled was not what I was used to. I regularly thought to myself, who are these people I am meant to be related to? My mother must have had an affair! Is my father really the milkman?
So where does that leave me all these years on? Thankfully I am still very much my father's daughter! I still get a little sad thinking there were things I could have done or said differently, however I have to remember it was about my grandmother, not me.
This is me - Teine 'Afakasi.
3 days ago