A Widow’s Might

“As soon as I saw him, I knew,” Fei Ucunibaravi said of her late husband when she first met him, while serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1975. When he approached her with interest in dating her she expressed to him, her goals, “Temple, and nothing less,” meaning she wanted to get married in the temple. Her desires were honored, and when she knelt across the altar from him in the New Zealand temple she knew without a doubt that she wanted nothing more than to be his eternal companion. During their fourteen years of a happy marriage, Fei and her husband had six children. “[After] fourteen years of marriage, the Lord called him to the other side,” she said, when he passed away from a sudden heart attack at the age of forty-seven.

Fei recognized the preparations her husband made before he died. “He had prepared me. He would ask me questions and when he asked me I would look at him casually as if nothing is going to happen. After he went on, I knew he was preparing me slowly.” One of the questions Fei remembers her husband asking was whether she would remarry if he ever passed away before her, to which she responded jokingly, “No, I don’t want another headache, one is enough.” Her youngest child at the time of her husband’s death was only two years old and her eldest was just twelve. “[My husband] was a very humble, good husband, and a good father. Always [putting] the Lord first in his life and I was very important in his life and the children,” Fei expressed. As parents, her goal with her husband was to strive to be an eternal family. Also five years prior to his death, Fei being a stay-at-home-mom was urged by her husband to take up a job at the local church school, which she did after they had decided from the beginning that she will not work. Five years later he died. “He kept on pestering and pestering me [to get a job at the school], so I ended up back in the office and five years later he died, and I had a job to help in bringing up my children and he left some money with us to help with their schooling too.”

Life after her husband’s death was challenging on many levels, but Fei trudged forward with faith. “We lived on our own which used to be our family home. My family they left it to me and I just rebuilt with my husband, it was half done and I finished it off and we stayed there on our own in Suva. Nobody came home, no friends, hardly any relatives because it was far. As my children were growing up, before my husband left we had our family tradition, family home evening, scripture reading and prayers in the evening. And after he left that’s what we did, we carried on. I didn’t know but that’s what we did, I made sure we had family prayer. I made sure that we never missed church, never missed church activities firesides or ward activities, even if we came home late at night, we would always go as a family.  We didn’t have a car, we would catch a bus because there were six of the children. As they were growing up, we would hire a van to bring us back.”

Over the difficult years as a single mother, Fei drew strength from the one person whom she believed could help her get through the pain – God. “Most of the nights after my children would go to sleep that is when I would go on my knees and ask the Lord to give me the strength and give me the courage to face each day as it comes. One of my friends told me ‘Don’t ever let your children see you cry because you miss their father.’ I made sure I didn’t do that, but when I would get on my knees I would cry to the Lord and I know He lifts my burdens.” As her children grew older, Fei had a strong desire for her children to have a father figure in their lives. “I fasted and prayed and the Lord assured me that it would be ok. He sent angels to help me. They just came. They helped me in small ways, big ways and I was crying to the Lord, ‘I need a father figure for these children. I can’t do it.’ He sent the Wakolos. We would fast on fast Sundays. They would fast and we would break fast together and we would have interviews starting from my children one by one and they never missed over a fifteen year period.” Elder Wakolo has now been called to be a mission president in the Arkansas Little Rock Mission. All six of Fei’s children have served full time missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all of her children have gone on to college.

After her children settled down with their own families and careers, Fei decided to serve a mission as a senior missionary for the LDS church. At the time of her interview, Fei was serving in Kiribati, but has recently been transferred to serve the remainder of her mission in the Marshall Islands. “I know it is my time to give something back to the Lord. I am here in the Marshall Islands. In whatever little way I can testify to the people that this is the Lord’s church. The Lord is blessing me in so many ways. I have a companion that is teaching me a lot of things that I am going to take back with me and improve my life, physically and spiritually. I know that the Lord has blessings that He is blessing me with, and that He is the maker of miracles.” In speaking with Fei’s eldest daughter Venina, she shared, “It was always her dream to go on a mission. But my mother used all her savings to put us through school, so I told her ‘If you want to go on a mission, just go. I don’t know how we are going to support you, but we will.” And so they did. All six of her children have successfully financed their mother’s mission.

One of her fondest memories of her husband was being able to attend the LDS temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. “One day I guess this was a year before he died, he said, ‘Do you want to know my long term goal?’ I said, ‘Ok,’ half interested. He said, ‘You know, to take you to the Salt Lake Temple.’ You know, we were struggling and we had a little family and that was the time I was working. He knew that I was not interested. Then he said, ‘Do you want to know my short term goal?’ I said, ‘Ok.’ [He said] ‘The same, to take you to the Salt Lake temple, before anything happens to me.’ In November, my husband and I were selected for a Church related assignment, and they arranged our travels so that my husband and I could go to the temple in Salt Lake City. Oh [my husband] came with that grin and he said, ‘Do you know my short term goal? Remember my short term goal?’ We went in March to do the recording in Salt Lake. In September he died, [the] same year in 1990.”

In Psalms 30 verse 5, a sweet reminder is written: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Throughout our lives, even through the most challenging of times, may we remember just as Fei remembered that divine and heavenly assurance, from He who atoned for our sins so that He could know how to succor us, even Jesus Christ; “You are never alone.”

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30 thoughts on “A Widow’s Might

  1. simply beautiful story about a simple beautiful family that has endured all to know what success in life really is. That is God, family, loved ones, education, employment for daily sustenance, and a very fulfilling life. It’s truly given me assurance that this is a pattern I would like myself to follow in this life to really prepare myself and loved ones to meet our Maker. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the blog. Yes that is so true. It is all about God and family, along with other things we need to do to sustain ourselves in this life.

  2. Thank you Ruby.. it has been a great journey.. and we are thrilled and excited to welcome back our mom who will return home after completing her mission this Sunday.. thank you again for sharing her story….

  3. This is truly and inspirational story and confirms that when you put your trust in the Lord and do all you are able and do your part, Our Heavenly Father will bless you with all the righteous desires of your heart. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Bro and Sister Ucunabaravi began their connection when my wife and I were receiving our Discussions about the Church…….Adi Wai was the missionary responsible for our conversion and baptism and Brother Ucunabaravi helped me in many ways to understand Gospel Principles better…….their trip to Salt Lake City a few months before Brother Ucunabaravi’s passing, my family lived in SLC and I worked as a Technician in Temple Square…….we had a very good visit during this trip…….little did we know that this was to be our last with Bro Ucunabaravi. I will always be grateful to Adi Wai for being the good missionary she was to have knocked on our Door to deliver my Personal Salvation and for them as a Couple to be my source of strength as a new member …….

  5. Truly she is a woman of great faith, yet very humble, loving, and caring. She is always willing to give and serve others quietly and with a gentle smile, and with the true love of Christ. No one would know that she has had a bad day or ever has one. Thanks for sharing your story and your testimony!

  6. Know of the family and their strong testimonies of the gospel. Nice article.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this special story of one of my dear friends. As you know we served together in the same mission in Kiribati.

    • Oh Sister Youngberg you are welcome. Hope you and Brother Youngberg are doing well. Much love to you both!

  8. A very inspiring true story of a very humble sister and her family! We have visited her place which is so far in the interior and have shared FHE with them and I have been so amazed at how she and her family had endured all those years travelling up and down that long and windy soggy road but as she had shared in her story, Our Maker had provided and miracles had happened! My faith and testimony had been greatly strengthened by knowing Fei and her family and the great examples she had taught me and my family! Much appreciated! Marieta Inia Suliana

  9. Love, love, love Sister Fei Ucunibaravi! I will always our first meeting through her extending gentle kindness on a flight together to honolulu as she offered to exchange seats so that I could sit together with my young children. She was also the first along with her children to welcome us to their home when we first arrived in Fiji! I knew then that I had made an eternal friend. Her kind ways, service, sacrifice and testimony as well as her wonderful children are a testament of her faith and love in and of her Father in Heaven. Thank you Ruby for getting her story out there because everyone who reads or listens to Fei’s story will be uplifted and edified! Love you Fei!

    • Thank you Sia for sharing your thoughts on the blog. She is a great example of what it means to be Christlike. Fa’afetai for taking the time to comment. Hope you are well and you will be hearing from me soon for your story 🙂

  10. Thanks so much Sister U for your good example. We love you and we will miss you. Mom sends her love to you and Sister T. God bless

  11. A lady of Royal birth with much humility. Admire her gentleness and her undying faith in and Love for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Her immeasurable kindness has transcended to one and all in her wonderful Ohana. We love you Sis Ucunibaravi and mahalo for your example….. a stalwart in faith!

    • Yes Sister Ucunibaravi is a great example of faith and humility. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  12. Thank you so much Sister U for your good example,elaptata your training that touching the heart of many souls here in Kiribati,we love and miss you till we meet again.
    love Tieem family.

  13. This is an uplifting story I ever read……. Good on you Sister U, and I am so much happy to get to know you here in Kiribati. God bless you

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