To my praying grandmother
This blog is about and for the woman that made me who I am today.
My grandmother was a God-fearing woman. Growing up, I remember it was like second nature hearing her in prayer as I would walk by her room each day, no matter the time or the occasion, she was in prayer for everyone in the family. Most Fiji families can relate to this, having a praying mum or grandmother is priceless and I think truly understated!
There have been many many pivotal moments when her prayers have helped us get through many situations. I will never forget the time we prayed and fasted about my work here at The Greenhouse Studio. Back then I was still an intern and when Fiji went into lockdown we were all told to work from home but because I had no laptop, I was unable to work. Days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months and when it was time to go back to work, I did not receive a call from the team. I was ready to give up hope but my grandmother encouraged me to again turn to prayer and fasting and what was even more encouraging was that she said that she would do it with me.
So every Wednesday from 6am to 12pm we would pray and fast for my work. Without fail and sometimes without me (as I would sometimes give in to the comforts of sleep), I would hear her getting up and praying, mentioning my name to God, and pleading with Him to answer my prayers for work. Her prayers were pleas from the heart, her selflessness shining through as she dedicated these hours to me, not for herself or her own blessings but for me. She would ask the Lord to grant me patience as I waited, for the Lord to give me strength and a heart of gratitude even if I did not get the job.
Another memory I hold dear to me that showed her steadfast faith and love for me was when she was away from home, she still managed to call me just to reassure me, her words as clear today as it was then:
“Talei mo wawa tiko, na yaco yani na qiri, Na Kalou sa vosa oti vei au, iko na lai cakacaka tale vei na Greenhouse Studio”. (Talei, have patience, you will receive a call saying that you will go back to The Greenhouse Studio. The Lord has spoken to me).
Being young and not as strong in faith as she was, I had my doubts. But alas a few days later, just as my grandmother had predicted, that fateful call from the office finally came. Fast forward to a few months, I am no longer an intern but have been blessed with a permanent position as Junior Visual Graphic Designer at The Greenhouse Studio.
“Au sega ni cudruvi iko, au vakavuliuci iko jiko” (I don’t hate you, I’m only teaching you) was my grandmother’s favorite line every time we got the scolding from her. My grandmother was a very traditional woman. My earliest memory from childhood was of her teachings, her teachings about the values of our culture. Being respectful always about the things we say and what we do when we are around people. If we wanted something from the top shelf and there were people sitting down near the shelf, we were to ask them first, if we could take the item, and only if the person agrees then we are able to take the item and then we sit back down in front of them and clap 3 times as a show of respect and gratitude.
Another example of her teachings of our culture was if we wanted to cross the room and there are people sitting on the floor we were to bend our backs as we walked by them as a sign of respect and say “Tilou” while crossing the room. Yet another that has been instilled in me from her is when we are eating as a family, and if we have finished our meal, we are not to leave the table until my father does. At home, we are not allowed to wear shorts because my grandmother would say that shorts are just for boys and we girls should dress proper, so whenever we have friends coming over at home they would always bring a spare sulu if they are wearing shorts and if they forget, they either would call first for me to have a sulu ready or they would not come at all. All these teachings are part of my culture, all part of the rituals and habits from our upbringing, and a part of who I am, the woman I have become because of the woman who prayed for me!
As strict as she was, we always knew we were loved. She showed this through her actions, staying up late at night just waiting for everyone to come home, and then finally she could sleep. If we were late we would expect non-stop calls asking where we were and what time we would be home. Or if we needed money or anything she would always have it, and if she didn’t she would find a way. She was what we called “Our Fijian Doctor” for she knew every herbal medicine for all types of sicknesses, and she would nurse us back to health. She was our superhero and just like every great hero in every great story, there is a time when they also need to rest.
“Death is a pain that nobody can heal but love leaves a memory nobody can steal”. It’s a line I got from a Connor Maynard song, “Unforgettable”. Never really took that line to heart until the day I lost my grandmother and it made me pause to think about those lyrics. We wake up every morning and go on about our day not knowing what will come. But on the 11th of May 2022, I woke up and got ready to go to work, said goodbye to my grandmother as I usually did, and told her that I would see her later that night as I would be working late. At 12pm that day I received the fateful call that our Lord Jesus Christ had called my faithful grandmother to eternal rest. Hearing the news over the phone whilst at work, I froze. I literally froze, staring at my laptop, I had all kinds of emotions. I felt empty, alone, and scared. I couldn’t breathe, and I didn’t want my workmates to see me so I hid in the bathroom, and crawled up in a corner in a ball, I lost track of time as I processed my feelings of shock and pain that I would never see her smile, hear her laugh, hear her preach, and even hear her telling me off every now and then.
In the hours and days that passed, it was all a blur. I remember the house was full of families and friends all coming together for my grandmother’s funeral. We all could feel her absence during those days because at every family function my grandmother would take care of everything and be the decision-maker at every function. With my sister now married and away in France I had to step up and take on all sorts of responsibilities that I never had to do before but armed with my grandmother’s teachings, it was something I was ready to take on. At her funeral, I was so grateful for my culture and for the love and gift of family, seeing all our extended family come together to pitch in. All showing their love and respect through their various duties. We had family members stationed everywhere around our home, some who stayed in the kitchen cooking, cleaning, and serving, others based at the lovo pit, those that were in charge of greeting people that were coming to pay their respects, and those that were in charge of the shopping and replenishing of supplies at the house. Bound by love, we all gave our best for the woman that raised us all and impacted each of our lives in a way that only she could.
Death really is pain, it takes the people we love and cherish the most. It puts us through indescribable, heart-wrenching pain. But I’d like to think that the love that my late grandmother left behind is what I saw that day, it was in a comforting hug from a family member, it was in the love poured into each and every task that allowed us to all come together under one roof. Not to say goodbye to her but to celebrate the wonderful life she had shared with us.