The word fa’afailele* and why we are thinking about Vagalena on Mother’s day
It’s Mother’s Day today. While the nation pauses to honour and acknowledge the role of mothers in nurturing and building families, churches and this country, we are thinking of mothers who are suffering for one reason or another.
We are mindful there are mothers who are not able to fully enjoy this day dedicated to them because they are heartbroken.
Indeed, we are thinking of mothers like Vagalena Viliamu of Safotu Savai’i. She is the mother 16-year-old, So’otaga Viliamu, whose death is the subject of a Police investigation. Vagalena’s plight was featured on the front page of the Samoa Observer last week in a story titled “Mother pleads for release of son's body.”
Her Mother’s Day wish is a tough one. As if losing a child through death is not hard enough, the pain of enduring a two-month wait – and possibly more - before you can say goodbye must be excruciating.
Today, all she wants is to be able to lay her son to rest next to his grandfather.
“My son has been in there for far too long,” she said. “All I ask is for the chance to bring him home so we can bury him.”
But it’s a difficult situation.
With the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, the Police cannot release his body until a Pathologist has done an investigation, especially with the suggestion that foul play might have been involved. The removal of a church minister from the village in relation to the matter makes things even more complicated.
Still, today we are thinking about Vagalena.
We are also thinking of those mothers who have lost loved ones in the recent past. The 81 lives claimed by the measles crisis a few months ago cannot be forgotten, especially given the fact the majority were innocent children. Today cannot possibly be a joyous day for their mothers as they remember the tragedy.
The role of motherhood is steeped in the concept of faafa’ilele. Fa’afa’ilele is the ultimate symbol of love where a mother conceives, gives and nurtures lives.
During the process, an unbreakable bond between mother and child is formed, which can only be broken by death. It is why the story of Vagalena is poignant. It is also why the thought of mothers who lost loved ones during the measles crisis, which remains unexplained, pains the soul. Today, we are thinking of them.
Just as we are thinking of mothers who have had to seek refuge from the Samoa Victims Support Group as they struggle with poverty, domestic violence, sexual attacks and abuse.
In a story published this week, it was revealed that since the S.O.E. lockdown, some 415 families have sought help. Many of them include abused women and girls and mothers who had contemplated suicide. We are thinking about them today.
It’s challenging enough to become a mother under normal circumstances. Imagine then being in the shoes of these mothers who are suffering day in and day out? It goes without saying that these are difficult times. And on a daily basis, mothers are at the forefront of the battle to continue to nurture and sustain lives. Regardless of the circumstances, the principle of fa’afailele never stops. Just imagine if it did?
As sons and daughters, despite the challenging times and the difficulties, we are grateful. We have a lot to be thankful for. Today, we all have mothers and we all have different stories to tell. Whether you are young, old, Prime Minister, farmer, fisherman or the Head of State, we all have women who nurtured, taught, inspired and helped us.
The truth is that the role of fa’afailele or that of motherhood is not acknowledged often enough. When we talk about the development of women, we often talk about jobs, positions, education and other issues. We often pay lip service to the importance fa’afailele and we rarely really sit down to acknowledge what it takes. Do we know the cost? Do we know what it requires? Do we care at all?
Today is an opportunity to reflect. And throughout this nation, amidst the celebrations and fanfare of Mother’s Day, we know all mothers have their struggles. And still they persevere with fa’afailele.
It is why we should remember Vagalena, we should remember mothers who lost sons and daughters during the measles crisis, think about the mothers seeking help from the S.V.S.G and all the mothers in Samoa who are in pain and sorrow. Let’s spare a thought for them. Whisper a prayer for strength, comfort and peace in times of turmoil.
Let us also celebrate with joy the successes of our mothers. And there are thousands of those stories to be told. Young and old, every mother in Samoa has contributed one way or another to the development of families, churches, villages and our country.
Take the opportunity today to acknowledge them and say thank you.
Happy Mother’s Day Samoa, God bless!
*Fa’afailele in Samoan means to nurture, to raise, to ensure growth.