My dad passed away on July 23, 2012. I had already braced for this news. He was in a coma after a tricky procedure cleared all hemorrhaging in his brain. While my father's body still functioned with assistance, the lack of brain activity forced my mom to remove life support after 30 hours.
Within two days of hearing that my dad was rushed to the hospital, he was gone. And I was completely broken.
Fonoti Oliovaigafa Toni is my best kept secret. He and my mom are the true source of any of my successes. Looking back, he pushed me both athletically and academically. From early morning beach runs to multiplication/spelling tests, he was relentless in ensuring I did well in school and sports. And that was at nine years old. During my collegiate years at Stanford University, our relationship was slightly strained as I felt burdened by his expectations. They looked incredibly lofty from where I stood. In the last couple years, I realized that his expectations were based on potential he recognized in me. Potential I had no idea existed. Regardless, he loved me the same - celebrating my successes and comforting me during my failures. He rarely expressed his love verbally but I felt it vibrate in my soul.
My father worked his entire life providing for our family. Even up till when he finally collapsed while designing our new family house in Samoa. It was only fitting that we buried him there, on our land in Malololelei. Our land has a prime view of Apia and the Pacific Ocean. A view from which I hope he watches us, his children, continue to honor the sacrifices he made. Bringing us to America so that we be educated, independent and continually god-fearing. Manuia lou malaga, Dad.