Birth of son helps father heal from measles loss

This time last year 15-month-old, Seluka Utumapu, became one of many children less than four years of age who perished in a deadly measles outbreak that went on to claim 83 lives.

Affectionately known as “superman” by his family, the toddler died at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital (T.T.M.) at Moto’otua at the height of the outbreak, shocking his immediate family including his father, Alex Lee Cheung, of Vaimoso.

Mr. Lee Cheung recalls his son’s death vividly like it was yesterday, saying his untimely passing broke him into a million pieces. 

“There are times when we try and ignore the fact that he’s gone, like today, I’m at one of the events going on here at Taumeasina Island Resort,” he told the Samoa Observer in an interview.

“And the only reason I came here is to relax my mind from remembering the tragic experience I and my family went through last year.

“It broke me in a million pieces knowing that he passed away but what can we do? We can’t control death and God’s plans for his children.

“I guess the thing that kept us going is prayers, as we are all Christians, we relied on Jesus for the answer to our misfortune and it’s slowly getting better from how it used to be.”

According to Mr. Lee Cheung, it was hard for everyone in his family to move on following the death. 

But two months after his son’s burial, his pregnant wife who was expecting at that time, gave birth in January this year to a baby boy. 

The family named him Seluka after his elder brother who was claimed by the measles epidemic, consequently filling a void in the hearts of his parents.

Mr. Lee Cheung believes that the birth of another son two months later early this year was God’s answer to their prayers. 

“He has filled the gap which my dear son Seluka left us last year when claimed by the measles and as I said Jesus has answered our prayers despite that there are times when I am reminded of my late son with small things back at home like his favourite dish and so forth,” he added.

The death of “superman” last year also compelled the mourning father to review his own life and he realised that he rarely spent time with his family. 

"I travel a lot and rarely spend time with my family and now that my youngest is gone, it's the biggest regret of my life. I want to make up for the times I've lost being with my son but it's too late.

“Be there for your children and your family while they're alive (is good) because death is a flash in the dark. We don't know when it comes."

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