This text was shared by the author to this site in 2008.
From Tonga with Love
Written by: Kathleen Elizabeth Peaua
Dedicated to the Memory of:
1*Pictures on front cover will be of a Grandfather, Pacific Islander in an Aloha Shirt in his “work truck” with his granddaughter Alice (also Polynesian appearing though lighter in coloring since she is half white but with dark eyes and long curly dark hair around 6 years old.
2*Picture during baptism topic will be a Pacific Islander grandfather in white performing the baptism of an 8 year old version of the same granddaughter being baptized in a baptismal font of a non descript chapel
3*Picture will be of Grandfather, Pacific Islander sitting in the front row of a chapel in the clothing as described in detail
4*Picture of granddaughter, long dark curly hair blowing slightly by a breeze looking out from the top of a hill at a huge ocean lined with coconut palms
5*Picture of family of four kneeling with scriptures evident and the Priesthood book title clear placed on a table in front of the family praying, heads bowed with Pacific Islander father, white mother, and two children 15 and 13 (15 year old brother very tall, with almost black eyes, dark short missionary hair cut and sister slight and long and slender, father larger eyes like children and mother long curling dark red hair and green eyes, thin and freckled slightly tan)
6*back jacket will be of the ocean
**Pictures will be done is a sketch and light colored pencil abstract detail for children and adults alike to provide imagery during sequence of story;
My name is Alice. My grandpa Manny was the greatest man I’ve ever know. [Grandpa Manny grew up on a small island in the south pacific but brought his whole family to America]. He was like my dad because he was always there for me when I needed someone to talk to. He encouraged me to always “Choose the Right” and even bought me my first CTR ring. He took me on trips sometimes in a car and sometimes on an airplane. We visited my aunt, uncles and cousins in Utah – we had relatives all over and we were always having get togethers. The best thing about our trips was that my grandpa talked to me. My grandpa told me how much Heavenly Father loves me.
My grandpa always reminded me how important it is to go to church, listen to my parents, and go to school. Sometimes my grandpa and I talked about my future. My grandpa told me that Heavenly Father’s plan for me was to continue my education, go on my mission, and get married in the Temple. And he said that one day – all of us would be reunited in the Celestial Kingdom. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew that if Grandpa would be there, then it probably was a really good place to go.
I was baptized when I was eight by my grandpa. I was so excited. I’ll never forget how it felt going underneath the waters, knowing that when I came up all my sins would be washed away. Grandpa Manny said it was because of the powerful Atonement of Jesus Christ. He taught me about repentance and about God’s love. He said that because God forgives every one of us, we must forgive each other.
The next year, when I was nine, my Grandpa Manny died. Everything changed in my life after he passed away. I was confused. I didn’t understand why Heavenly Father would take him away so soon. My grandpa had promised me that he would be there when I graduated from college, went on my mission, and was married in the Temple. How could he break his promise? Why did we have to be apart?
I was so hurt and sad and lonely. I cried myself to sleep every night. My mom would take my brother Richard and I sometimes in the middle of the night when we couldn’t sleep to see my grandma.
She was all alone and sad like us too. Sometimes we just cried together. Sometimes my grandma would tell my brother and I stories about the old days and we would remember and even laugh at the funny things that had happened. When my brother would cry, I would go into his room and try to comfort him. The only problem was I would also start to cry. Even though my dad and mom were very sad they would try to be strong, and hold us and tell us that grandpa Manny was with heavenly Father waiting for us.
It seemed like we all had tears that wouldn’t go away. Without my grandpa I had a big hole in my heart. Without grandpa, I didn’t think I would know how to follow Heavenly Father’s plan, and I was angry that Grandpa wouldn’t be there at my graduation, my wedding or for anything else.
Then something happened. When I turned twelve I got to enter the temple myself to do Baptisms for the Dead. Again as I entered the waters of baptism – this time for people I had never met who had died long ago – I remembered what Grandpa Manny always taught us: that families are forever. I remember thinking if I kept doing good in church and baptized other people so that they could go the Celestial Kingdom and his son Jesus Christ that hopefully one day I would go too. I always searched the scriptures for answers. Even though my testimony was strong I still had questions.
After my twelfth birthday my family and I moved overseas to the island where Grandpa Manny grew up, over 7,000 miles away from our home in Lake Tahoe. At first I didn’t want to go and leave everyone – even Grandma – behind. I felt like I was leaving my grandpa behind too. Even though I knew it was just his body buried in the ground I would still miss the visits with my grandma to the cemetery and spending time there.
Our new home was in the village my grandfather grew up in. The first Sunday we were in this village we went to church. At our new ward I bore my testimony. While I was bearing my testimony I looked at my brothers and sisters in my ward and thought I could feel my grandpa’s presence. I felt a sensation on my hand that felt like my grandpa’s hand touching my own. I turned to look behind me and saw my Bishop and Stake President but my grandpa was not there. My hand tingled where I had felt his touch.
I was finishing my testimony and began to hear his voice whispering in my ear. I heard my grandpa tell me how proud he was we had finally come home and that Heavenly Father was looking down and smiling. As I looked out tears flowed down my cheeks and I saw my dad, mom, and brother sitting in the front row and next to them sat my grandpa.
I blinked to clear my eyes thinking surely I was seeing things. I wiped my eyes and there as real as I or my family or my fellow church members sat my grandpa. He was smiling at me and nodding his head in approval. I still remember what he was wearing. He was wearing his favorite suite with his light blue jacket, white shirt, favorite yellow and blue striped tie and dark blue pants with his mismatched socks one black and one brown and his shiny black church shoes.
I walked toward my family and sat down next to him. I just stared and he put his arm around me and held me to him. I could smell the faint traces of his favorite after shave. I began to cry in earnest. Oddly my family didn’t say anything about my odd behavior. My dad reached around and gave my arm a squeeze and my mom leaned over and kissed my forehead and said she loved me and told me what a beautiful and moving testimony I gave.
I had spoken about my grandpa and now I was seeing him and hearing him and feeling him. I didn’t say anything. My brother gave me a funny look and looked at the spot my grandfather was sitting in and had tears in his own eyes.
Later when we walked home after church I gazed down the road from my church I saw the blue ocean so big and beautiful with waves crashing onto the shore. I thought this could be okay to live here for a little while, even though I still missed my family, friends and home. I turned to walk back up the road to our new home and my dad handed me his scriptures to hold. When we got home he asked my mom, my brother, and me to sit down and ask me to open his Priesthood Book. I thought I would be asked to open to a scripture and we would discuss it. My parents have shared their lessons from time to time but this was the first time we were asked to participate in what my parents had been learning in their own classes at church.
We turned to Chapter 14 in Teachings of Presidents of the Church by Joseph Smith. The title from this chapter I will never forget: Words of Hope and Consolation at the Time of Death. I felt goose bumps up and down my arms. After my experience at church, I knew it was a lesson meant for me. My eyes started to fill with tears, I felt my brother’s hand in mine and my father choking through his own tears and pain as he asked my brother and I to begin to read: “What have we to console us in relation to the dead? We have reason to have the greatest hope and consolation for our dead of any people on earth.”
We continued to read the story of Joseph Smith’s painful ordeal, and how he too experienced the loss of family, friends, and especially his own children. . Prophet Joseph Smith was able to give much-needed comfort to many mourning Saints who also experienced great heartache and trials as they struggled to overcome their hardships as they moved from Kirtland to Nauvoo and finally to the Great Salt Lake.
Joseph Smith said, “I have fathers, brothers, children, and friends who have gone to a world of spirits. They are only absent for a moment. They are in the spirit, and we shall soon meet again. The time will soon arrive when the trumpet shall sound. When we depart, we shall hail our mothers, father, friends, and all whom we love, who have fallen asleep in Jesus. There will be no fear of mobs, persecutions, or malicious lawsuits and arrests; but it will be an eternity of felicity.”
When my brother and I were done reading these excerpts from my dad’s Priesthood Book we were all silent. I looked at my parents, holding hands. My brother and I sneaked a look at the other to see if we were both feeling the same thing, this kind of peace and understanding we thought we had achieved separately I knew now in my heart and spirit that as a family we had achieved a new light and new blessing and that we were already healing together.
Searching the faces of my mom, dad and brother I no longer felt alone or afraid. Peace, comfort and love washed over me. My parents and brother and I held out our hands to one another and just held on. My father asked us all to kneel down and we did so unlocking our hold on each other and lowering our heads in prayer with our hearts still linked. We prayed and gave thanks to Heavenly Father for the many blessings in our lives and for the life of grandpa Manny.
The words all have become clear. Later that night, before I lay down, I opened up the scriptures. In Moses 39 I read: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” I understood then, that God’s purpose is to teach us how be together forever as families who are sealed together by the power of the Holy Priesthood. I must strive to be a righteous person and fellowship all of Heavenly Father’s children. I must begin by sharing my personal struggle, my pain, and heartache and sharing my confusion, and sometimes even anger.
This journey across the ocean to my grandpa Manny’s homeland has made me stronger and more secure in my knowledge that Heavenly Father loves me. Today I walk towards my future with Heavenly Father to guide me as my grandpa guided me when I was young. I know I am blessed and that just because my grandpa is not here on Earth doesn’t mean he isn’t still alive. My grandpa is alive and he’s waiting for me in the Celestial Kingdom. My grandpa will be there for my graduation, mission, and marriage in the Temple, just as he was there for me on that first Sunday at church in his village.
The greatest gift my grandpa gave me was guiding me and showing me Heavenly Father’s Promise – the promise that families are eternal. I will celebrate my graduation and prepare for my mission and temple marriage and know that I am not alone.