Utther Finau: My Mother’s Example
I could tell you so much about my mom. I can still feel her amazing hugs that seemed to dissolve all my problems and can picture the smile that remained on her face even through the excruciating pain she endured. I could talk at length about how much I love and miss her. But what I remember the most is my mother’s love of giving.
My mother, Atelina (Lina) Finau, truly had a servant’s heart. She always put others’ needs before her own, whether it was for her family, friends, or even complete strangers. Her desire to give came from her strong faith in God, and the greatest lesson she ever taught me was that we were put on this earth to help one another and that these selfless acts bring praise to the Lord.
My mother followed her own teaching. She seized every opportunity to be involved in the church. Between attending Sunday services, working in the church office, participating in Bible study, and joining a variety of ministries, she was almost always at the church. That meant that I was always at church too, and as a child, that was the last place I wanted to go. I thought it was unfair, considering that while I was at church, my friends were at home sleeping in and watching TV. Fortunately, my mother’s example ultimately changed my outlook toward the church.
As I grew older, I realized the importance of helping others. I noticed the type of people that were constantly volunteering alongside my mother at church. Their passion to help and love complete strangers left me dumbfounded. But eventually, that confusion developed into a love for those in need.
Lina’s Cancer Battle
My mom put others before herself even when she was sick. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was three years old. As a child, watching her go through so much—surgeries, treatment, chemotherapy, and radiation—was difficult. But she battled through it and came out healthier and stronger, shining that same beautiful smile and giving those hugs that made me feel like I was wrapped in God’s love. She even gave birth to my little sister even though she’d been told she could have no more children. She called my baby sister her “miracle girl” and was a proud mother of six children. She invested so much love and care into all of us.
I knew my Mom loved the book Jesus Calling. I would see her reading it nearly every day. Only later did I learn how much my mom truly cherished that book.
Last spring, after putting off going to the doctor, my mom went in to check out some pain she’d been having. The doctor told her that her cancer was back and that she would need surgery, a hysterectomy, soon. During the operation they learned that the cancer was not only back—it had spread. My family and I were heartbroken and terrified. Being the kind of woman she was, my mom was more worried about us than her own condition. She was happy to see how we had grown over the years and felt that we would be strong enough to handle her absence if she were to die. After we learned that her cancer was unresponsive to treatments, Mom applied for hospice care so she could spend her last days with family.
But my mom never got out of the hospital. She died six days after the surgery. . She was only forty-nine years old.
My mom was the light of so many people’s lives. No one could believe she was gone.
A Loving Community
We are Tongan and have a very large family in addition to our church family. The Tongan community is traditional and close-knit with many deeply held rituals. The loving and caring people in our community stood by our family in any way they could. The day my mom died, after the funeral home took her body away, my large family didn’t want to leave the hospital. We went to the waiting room and cried and prayed and held each other for hours. At some point, someone pulled out Jesus Calling and read the passage from that day:
I Am a mighty God. Nothing is too difficult for Me. I have chosen to use weak ones like you to accomplish My purposes. Your weakness is designed to open you up to My Power. Therefore, do not fear your limitations or measure the day’s demands against your strength. What I require of you is to stay connected to Me, living in trusting dependence on My limitless resources. When you face unexpected demands, there is no need to panic. Remember that I am with you. Talk with Me, and listen while I talk you through each challenging situation.
I am not a careless God. When I allow difficulties to come into your life, I equip you fully to handle them. Relax in My Presence, trusting in My Strength.
“For nothing is impossible with God.” —Luke 1:37
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. —2 Corinthians 12:9
The words from that day’s entry calmed our hearts, and we finally went home.
At my mom’s funeral, Pastor Cindy talked about how my mom had kept asking for copies of Jesus Calling to give away. She had even kept giving away her own copy! In one of the last books Pastor Cindy gave my mom, she wrote inside the cover, “This is Lina’s book. No one takes it from her. Signed, Pastor Cindy.” But our pastor shared that my mom even gave that book away. As Pastor Cindy shared, it became clear how much Mom had truly loved that book and wanted to share it with others.
That was my Mom—loving everyone, wanting to share a book she loved, not even keeping a copy for herself.
Carrying on Lina’s Legacy
The past year has not been easy. My siblings and I miss our mom so much. She played such a huge role in our lives, and her absence has never gone unnoticed. But through all of this, I’ve realized that I am my mother’s daughter. I want to share God’s love as she did. I have decided that after high school and college, I will go to seminary and study to be a pastor. My mom loved God so much, even in her hardest times, and I want to share that love too.
I wish you could feel one of my mom’s hugs. She would wrap you all the way up in her arms and hold you there until she knew you felt better. It was just like God’s love, warm and real and all around you. I miss her, but I know she’s still with us, shining, smiling, and hugging—and most of all, enjoying God’s presence.