Vai's View: A tribute to Mom

Published: Friday, May 10 2013 2:25 p.m. MDT

My dear mother, Ruby Sikahema, passed away peacefully in her sleep last month after a long battle with diabetes. Her funeral was held in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 13. The following are my remarks made at her funeral. I share them as a Mother's Day tribute.

From my earliest memory, the gospel and the church was always important and a high priority to my mother.

Mom had a family friend named Talafaiva sew a little tupenu — lava-lava or skirt — for me, which I wore every Sunday with a little ta'ovala — a fine woven mat worn at the waist — white shirt and tie to Primary. It was and is still today the uniform of the Tongan missionary. The impact of that small, albeit insignificant lesson in Tonga nearly 50 years ago was passed onto my sons, who wore only white, collared shirts with ties since they were toddlers to church. I wanted my sons to grow up being comfortable and used to the look and feel of a Mormon missionary. Even now as returned missionaries, on their own in college and one married, they only wear white shirts to church, never blue or pink or stripes. My married son, LJ, has two little boys. They only wear white shirts. My mother's influence in Tonga almost 50 years ago reached through two generations of her posterity and spanned the globe from Tonga to America to London, England; Hong Kong, China; and Hawaii, where my sons served faithfully.

I remember other little lessons as a child. My mother would gently tap my hand if I reached for the sacrament with my left hand. She would nod for me to use my right hand. I was an adult when I learned the sacrament is still effective no matter which hand we used. When I pointed out to her that others take the sacrament with their left hand, she would say to me what I often heard throughout my teenage years, "I don't care what everybody else or your friends are doing." So, why did she do that?

She repeatedly told me that my right hand is my covenant hand, and the hand we use to sustain church officers and the ward librarian. Mom viewed taking the sacrament with it as preparation and another reminder of the significance my right hand would play in my life, like raising it to the square to baptize and taking my bride's hand with it across the Temple altar someday. Mom insisted I kept BOTH hands and my heart clean, physically and spiritually, as I blessed the emblems of the Lord's Supper.

I repeat for emphasis so you don't misunderstand me, the sacrament is good with either hand. I think my Mom knew I'd figure that out. I did. But by the time I did, I was used to it and I've never taken the sacrament without thinking of those lessons.

Mom, I've kept my hands clean and have made the sacred covenants you prepared me for. Last Sunday, general conference, as I raised my right hand to sustain Thomas S. Monson as our prophet, seer and revelator — I thought of you gently tapping my left hand and pointing to my right hand, which I held high for you to see.

When I was 5 or 6, two significant events seared into my memory just how important the priesthood is. First, Queen Salote died and Tonga mourned the Queen's passing for a year, which was followed by the preparation for the coronation of her son, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, her successor. The second event happened a year after the coronation Elder Thomas S. Monson, then a junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve, came to Nuku'alofa to create the first stake in Tonga.

My public elementary school — Lau Tohi — practiced for months lining the main road in Nuku'alofa with thousands of other schoolchildren from public and private schools, waving little Tongan flags for the day the royal motorcade would pass. Even as a child, I understood how historic it was and how important the king was.

When Elder Monson came in the fall of 1968 to create the first Tongan stake, my mother pointed to him from where we sat and said, "Koe siana ko e, oku kau ia he kau Apositolo 'ae Otua. E 'iai e aho teke ma'u e puletapu tatau pe oku ne ma'u, ka he 'ikai teke Tu'i. Ka oku mahu'inga ange ae puletapu koia he mafai oku ma'u he Tu'i."

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