In a tiny home, on the island of Samoa, the tender picture of a happy ending for one mother is delicately framed around the vision of her children living a life that is better than the difficult one she had—one of neglect. “I was born of parents who dumped me in the bushes,” Aigauputasi Memea uttered quaveringly as she began to reflect on her past.
“A couple found me, and they took me and cared for me. I was cared for by kind and loving [foster] parents and I was their only child,” she continued through tears. Her family was converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the year 1957; a conversion that would later become a strong source of strength for her.
In 1964, Aigauputasi was married. “My marriage was a challenging union because my husband’s unanticipated behaviors chronically afflicted me,” she shared. After years of mistreatment and abuse, he left her to single handedly mother sixteen children, with her youngest being only a year old and her eldest being twenty six years old. “I gave birth to thirteen children and I then adopted three more boys from my relatives who had passed on,” she said. Her daunting role as a single mother was heavily aided by the Relief Society program (an auxiliary program in the LDS church). “I learned a lot of skills from the other mothers in Relief Society, skills that I worked hard to learn and do. The other mothers taught me how to cook a variety of affordable meals and how to plant a garden of vegetables which helped provide food for us. They also taught me how to sew and this skill saved me a lot of money because I would only spend money to buy the materials; and, then I would sew my own children’s uniforms instead of spending more money to find another seamstress,” Aigauputasi expressed.
Despite her age and poverty, she was determined to give her children an education—an opportunity that she had lacked. “I only made it to form two (ninth grade) and I did not want my children to go through the same life I lived—being under bondage and abuse. I wanted them to live freely and be educated so they could have prosperity and have good families and not depend on me for the rest of their lives. I wanted them to be independent,” Aigauputasi explained. She ascribed her sedulous efforts in putting her children through school to “the ocean.” “I went to the ocean. I sold clams. I dug them up and I sold them to get money to pay for [my children’s] tuition. I really tried. I worked hard so they could go to school.”
At the present moment, three of her eldest children have graduated from college. Her eldest son graduated from the University of the South Pacific with his Bachelors of Science in Agriculture and now works at the Red Cross in Samoa and is also the owner of “Le Tama Toa” Auto parts store. Her other son has graduated from Brigham Young University of Hawaii with his Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and is now employed at Delta Airlines as a corporate officer. Her eldest daughter graduated from Brigham Young University of Hawaii with her Bachelors of Science in Information Systems and is now currently working at the Church Education System in Samoa as a payroll Accountant. Aigauputasi’s youngest child is currently serving his full time mission in the Marshall Islands for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her other children are happily married and are currently living in different parts of the world.
After years of working hard to put her children through school, Aigauputasi shared an immense amount of gratification and humility to God for the success of her children and their survival. “I know my life was very challenging. I was left alone when my parents died and then my husband left me and my children. It was very difficult. It wasn’t easy for me to raise many children by myself but I prayed and depended on my Father in Heaven to help me.” When asked if she had received the happy ending she had envisioned she said, “Yes, although we are not rich, I am not worrying about it. I am happy and content. I only worry about my Father in Heaven and the duties He has given us to work in and I am happy that my children have gotten the education that I wanted for them. That is my happy ending. I am grateful to God for life and the strength He gives me which enables me to fulfill my duties as a mother and a father in my family.”
Hearing her story instilled in me a greater appreciation for all mothers, fathers, and guardians—especially towards my own parents—for their tireless efforts in enabling their children to obtain an education and in allowing them the opportunity for a better life. Perhaps as children, we tend to overlook those efforts by our parents, but I encourage you to take a moment to show them gratitude for their sweat, blood and tears that went into giving us THAT opportunity to rise and meet our full potential, a potential to be successful and to find our own happy endings.
Here is a compilation of highlights from Aigauputasi’s interview. (All videos will be short clips–5 mins or less–from our volunteer’s interviews. As one who has been honored with the opportunity to write these stories, I am only sharing portions of the interviews that have been reviewed and approved by the interviewees.)
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~ R.T.T. ~