Choosing Hope: The Example of Lose Tafuna


“I’m not fat; I’m just husky,” joked Bishop Fa’a’umu, as he eased his 285-pound frame into a chair and accepted a heaping plate of chicken, taro, and lu pulu from Lose Tafuna, the Relief Society president.

“Why you are just a skinny kid!” laughed Heneli, one of the largest high priest group leaders in the Church.

Bishop Mahe’s home was crowded to capacity with the leadership of two Tongan wards. It was a festive occasion. I sat in a corner, relishing the superb Tongan cuisine and the magnificent sociability of some of the world’s most loving people. Husbands and wives sat together. Tongan music played in the background.

As impressed as I was by the priesthood leaders, I was struck most deeply by the easy grace and light-hearted banter of the Relief Society president serving the group.

I first met Lose twenty-three years ago in the Tonga Mission. She had one of those personalities you never forget. Her vibrant smile and her happy, mischievous eyes made her the darling of Liahona High School and the sweetheart of the Latter-day Saint community in Tonga. Virtually every youth party or MIA function featured Lose in one way or another—if not as queen of the dance floor, then as queen of the kitchen or the cleanup committee.

When word was whispered around that Lose was attached to an equally popular young Tongan man, every heart warmed to the prospects of an ideal marriage—and a new little family of beaming, intelligent children. Moli Tafuna had had his eyes on Lose for some time. Distinguishing himself as a student and missionary, he was clearly headed for great things. To win Lose’s heart and her hand in marriage was the crowning achievement of his youth.

Everyone was happy about this wonderful development. The bishops referred to Lose and Moli as examples of the ideal Latter-day Saint courtship. We missionaries capitalized on the couple’s popularity to teach nonmembers about temple marriage and the eternal family. Lose and Moli were married in the New Zealand temple in 1960.

After I returned from the Tonga Mission in 1962, I lost contact with the Tafunas for several years. Occasionally I would hear snatches of news about them from Tongan travelers to general conference.

It was from one such traveler that I first heard sad news about Lose and Moli: “Si’i faka’ofa ’ae ongo ki’i mätu’a ni.” (“How pitiful is this young couple.”) The Tafunas had not been able to have children. Their Tongan friends shared their sadness.

I knew Lose must have been extremely disappointed. But when I saw her sometime later—in Hawaii, where she was visiting—she was as bright and happy as ever. She spoke lovingly about her husband and recounted their life together. They were making their own substantial contribution of service to the Church. He was a stake missionary. She worked in the Primary. They owned a home and had been able to adopt some children.

Then, five years ago, there was more sad news. Moli Tafuna was seriously ill. Several brain tumors had taken a terrible toll. Lose faced what for many is the most frightening of all possible tragedies in marriage—not death, but the total disability of one of the partners. Moli Tafuna, bright, energetic, and dynamic, was now speechless, paralyzed, and completely helpless.

Watching Lose now, among a buoyant group of old friends who spoke energetically of children on missions, trips to the temple dedication, and prospective marriages, my thoughts were on her life of tragedy. For nearly five years now she had assumed the responsibilities of both father and mother and had been caring for Moli at home. Tonight, though, not a single line in her face betrayed the heartache she must feel. I marveled at her emotional stamina. After the food had all been served, I approached Lose to ask about her husband.

“Oh, he is doing just great. He is really wonderful.”

“Can he speak at all?” I ventured.

“No, but he can communicate very well with his eyes. Just the other day, when I was about to give him his meal through the feeding tube, he raised his hand to say thank you. Oh, he’s just great.”

Lose seemed overjoyed over this feeble communication from her husband. Surely, I thought, this woman must yearn for companionship. Lose seemed to read my thoughts. She answered simply:

“It is enough to see his face.”

I told Lose how much I loved and admired her and her husband, then returned to my seat very thankful for a new insight into eternal love. Charity never faileth, nor does the marriage covenant made with the heart and soul.

Later at the party, Bishop Mahe and his wife Tohi provided the rest of the pieces to the radiant mosaic of Lose’s love for Moli and for the Lord.

“Lose is constantly rejoicing that her husband is alive,” explained Bishop Mahe. “Everything is a cheerful ‘we.’ She insists that I assess her a budget equal to the amount I would give them if her husband were still working at his old job at the airlines. ‘We can do it,’ she says.”

“She is always eager,” Tohi added, “to get home to see her husband. One would never know he was ill. She speaks of him as her greatest support.”

This tribute to Lose by her bishop and his wife was full of superlatives. Lose is a loving and effective Relief Society president who leads by showing rather than by simply telling. She is a valued employee in an airlines kitchen. She gives excellent care to her adopted children.

“One of the most remarkable qualities in Lose’s love for her husband,” continued Tohi, “is her effort to preserve his ngeia (personal dignity). She wants us to love him, not pity him. She is not embarrassed when visitors come. She in fact encourages them, ‘Oh, please come meet my husband; he’s feeling fine today.’”

So Lose Tafuna does her duty and serves, loves, and brightens the lives of others. Her experiences with Moli increase her sense of the infinite worth of people, especially those suffering in bitter circumstances. Her love for him does not waver. She knows that in his emaciated bosom beats a burningly tender and thankful heart. She knows also that in eternity he will be completely whole and completely hers.

[illustration] Illustrated by Ronald O. Stucki

Eric B. Shumway, father of seven, is the Vice-president for Academics at Brigham Young University—Hawaii. He serves as president of the BYU—Hawaii Stake.