3 weeks ago I received a phone call -- a phone call that I hope will not be replicated during my lifetime. The call came from the Fiji Islands, a country that I consider to be my second home, my second place of birth, a spiritual birth, not physical. I first went to Fiji at the age of 13, and for the past 15 years I have come to know this country, its people, and its culture as my own. The phone call was from my father, and he broke the news to me; my best friend’s 15 year old son, Onisivoro Kamanalagi, had passed away.
The year was 2000. I was on another of my excursions to Fiji, taking in the breathtaking beaches, superb scuba diving, and trying to gain understanding of the Fijian people and culture. It was during this trip that Niumaia Nayasa, a local Fijian from Gau Island, invited me to his village, an 8 hour boat ride away through some of the wildest seas and jutting coral reefs that exist. Niu and I became instant best friends, and over the past 10 years we have developed a friendship, a bond, a brotherhood, the like I have never experienced before.
Words cannot do VadraVadra justice. This village is the birthplace of Niu, and it is where I first really learned to speak Fijian, went spear fishing during the day and night for the first time, experienced the wild effects of Kava, taught English for 2 weeks at the local school, and truly became indoctrinated and incorporated into the life and culture of a Fijian village. Through all of this Niu was by my side, helping me to understand the complexities of the Fijian family, navigating me through the taboos of the local culture, and most importantly, being an amazing friend. I spent much time with both of his sons, Kama and Save, helping them with their homework, swimming in the ocean, and teaching them English. The result was an invitation from the village to build my own house. In 2007, this mission was accomplished, and today my parents and I visit VadraVadra regularly, making it our second home.
I met Kama when he was 5 years old. During his youth it became apparent that Kama was a child dedicated to studying heard, working to his fullest potential, and devoted to his faith. He never hesitated to complete any chore that was asked of him, spent countless hours studying before and after school, and even became choirmaster of the youth choir at his church. In January of this year, 2010, Kama had just begun his first year of secondary school. He enrolled into one of the most prestigious government high schools in Fiji, and enjoyed the academic competition, rigorous instruction, and strict discipline required of the students. He was already successful in my eyes, but a child that had not yet reached his potential on earth.
Apparently, I am wrong, for God has taken Kama to be with Him, and called Kama to serve the Lord in Heaven. We shall all perish, and it is not for us to determine when our potential has been reached on earth. So I reflect on Kama’s short life, but understand that there are lessons to be learned from the way he lived his life, his devotion to academics, work, and faith, and that even if I can’t fully understand the lessons I am supposed to learn, I have faith that they will come into full view as I continue my life, and continually reflect on the life of Kama.
I have spent the past 3 weeks in the Fiji Islands with my friend Niu, his family, and my parents, helping each other cope through the loss of Kama. I just hope that I never have to receive another similar phone call during my lifetime, one was enough.