My name is Keisha Keala Fea’feaga (Moea’i) Funaki. I am half Samoan, raised in Hawaii, married to a Tongan, and shake like a Tahitian (I wish). I am the youngest and only daughter of Judith and Harvey Moea’i. I am eternally sealed to a humble and loving man named Tevita Funaki Jr, and together we have two funny and active children. My son, Lopiseni, is two and is currently fascinated with the Whip Nae Nae and playing pogs. My daughter, Liliola, will be turning one at the end of August. She enjoys eating, climbing, and irritating her brother.
I have lived in Laie, Hawaii all of my life so I have been raised to appreciate and love all Polynesian cultures. All of the major events of my life have happened in this small town I call home. From attending BYU-Hawaii, to dancing at the Polynesian Cultural Center where I met my husband, being sealed in the Laie Temple, and now working as a 6th grade teacher at Laie Elementary School. The only place I have grown spiritually outside of Laie, is Guatemala. I am a return missionary of the Guatemala City Central mission, and I will forever love and be grateful for all of those who I have been blessed to know while on my mission.
I was presented with this opportunity to share an experience in my life that has helped me to recognize God’s love for me. I have chosen a very personal topic that I hold very sacred; but after praying I know that now is the right time to share. I know many will be able to relate, but it is my hope that at least one person will be able to recognize more of how our Heavenly Father truly loves and looks after his daughters.
One of the most difficult things about living this life, is living without a life. Sooner or later everyone will be challenged to deal with the death of a loved one. For me it came much sooner than I thought. When challenged with this problem, many choose to blame God and question his love. It took me many years to finally recognize that my father’s death wasn’t just a sudden event. I realized that my Heavenly Father had prepared me for that big event, and helped me get through it until I was strong enough to stand on my own. I am writing this experience as a daughter who lost a parent; I know it is different feeling if you are a wife who lost a husband, or a mother who lost a child. I believe that in those situations, Heavenly Father will do the same. Prepare you for it, and help you get through it.
The relationship between my father and I was a funny one
My brothers and I had a close relationship with our dad. He was the funny dad with the not so appropriate humor. He would call in sick, to pull me out of school just so we could spend time together (all behind my mom’s back). Our nightly routine consisted of late night rides to 7-11 and joking/teasing ourselves and others. All the fun happened at night because during the day he juggled three jobs to provide for our family. Well, I had just turned sixteen and those rebellious hormones started acting up. I remember my dad being so concerned about me and my future. He would openly express how much he wanted me to stay close to home and go to college at BYUH. He even started to question me to see if I had a desire to serve a mission. Even marriage came up! At that time I didn’t even want to discuss marriage. I could tell all of these things were bothering my dad, but I didn’t know why.
Though I always knew my dad had a testimony, I had never really heard him express it out loud. I never really knew my dad’s spiritual side, and because of his busy schedule we weren’t necessarily raised doing the typical Mormon things. It just so happened that my dad was newly called to be my Sunday school teacher. I had never seen my dad prepare so much to teach gospel doctrine, let alone study the scriptures. I thought my Sunday school class would consist of field trips to McDonalds, but it didn’t. My dad was serious. His lessons consisted of doctrine and testimony and it was weird for me. One lesson that I remember the most is when he talked about the Plan of Salvation. I had never seen my dad cry before. Even my friends were shocked. He was crying because he had likened the Plan of Salvation to an airport. He said to imagine your whole family is going on a trip and they all have a plane ticket in their hand. Then he teared up saying what if everyone in your family had a ticket going to a different destination. Then I realized, he was crying because he feared that even though our family was sealed, it was a possibility that we wouldn’t all end up at the same place (kingdom).
These were all ways that Heavenly Father prepared me for the biggest challenge of my life. A few weeks before my dad’s death I was also challenged with prompted questions by the Spirit. “ What would you do if your dad died?” During those moments I honestly saw myself being a rebellious teen, not caring about the consequences of my actions. Then reality hit….
It was the first day of my sophomore year in high school. I came home from seminary because my dad said he wanted to take me to school. I was happy because I didn’t want to be the oldest person catching the bus. When I got home I could see that my dad wasn’t feeling well. He struggled to sit up in bed and he couldn’t gather enough energy to get himself ready. As I seen him struggle I told him not to worry. I told him to stay home and rest and that I didn’t mind catching the bus. At that time the spirit tried to prompt me to let me know something was wrong, but I was caught up with the excitement of it being my first day at school.
While at school I had a terrible feeling during lunch time like something was wrong. Of course I brushed it off and kept laughing and joking with friends. I was in my last class and school was there was only ten more minutes of school left. The phone rang and my teacher told me my aunty was waiting for me at the office. As soon as I left my class that terrible feeling came again. I began to cry as I walked to the office. I couldn’t understand why I was crying. I was clueless as to what had happened but I knew it wasn’t good. My aunty kept reassuring me that everything would be fine, but I had no clue as to who or what she was talking about. On our way to the hospital there was a special moment that I will forever remember. Through the spirit, I was asked a question. It came as a very vivid thought, almost as if Heavenly Father was asking for my permission. My answer to the question was “yes, if you need him, you can take him. I will be fine.”
Soon enough I found myself telling Heavenly Father, “ I lied, I’m not fine! Can I have him back.” It was just too hard to bear. My testimony at that time wasn’t even a testimony at all. I had nothing to lean on for strength. My mom was weak. My siblings were busy mourning and dealing with funeral arrangements. Though I did not have my own real testimony at that time, I definitely started to grow one. I recall laying on my dad’s bed being so emotionally, spiritually, and physically weak that I couldn’t put together the strength to even lift a finger. I literally had to wiggle my body to the edge of the bed to where I was in the perfect position to pray. I begged Heavenly Father to give me strength so that I could be strong for my mom. Not a minute later I found myself standing, tear-less and full of energy. I could no longer cry. I was overwhelmed with comfort. I was happy. I had no doubts about where my dad was. For the very first time, I had acknowledged that I am nothing on my own, and that I needed help. It’s amazing how a testimony always starts with a simple prayer.
From that moment I knew Heavenly Father loved me and that He had tried to prepare me for this trial. But He didn’t stop there. He continued to bless me. During high school there were times where I wanted to give up being the minority and follow the majority. Drinking, running away, and all those other teenage temptations were all there. There were times where I felt alone and there were times where I felt like my earthly father was watching me and making sure I wouldn’t do anything dumb. Even college seemed to be laid out for me. School was paid for through scholarships, and dating left me terrible experiences that made me eager and excited to go on my mission. It was like everything my dad had talked about previous to his death was coming true. He even set me up with the perfect man to be my husband who made up for all of my weaknesses; a spiritual and worthy priesthood holder who was raised with a solid foundation in the gospel. It wasn’t until I was sealed in the temple with my husband that I realized that I was now strong enough to be on my own. My father’s priesthood was now released from me, and I was under my husband’s priesthood authority and responsibility. Since that moment life hasn’t been so easy, but I can honestly say that I have never been so strong.
Losing a loved one is probably the hardest trial we will ever go through in our lives, but it is necessary to go through those experiences to better understand the love our Heavenly Father has for us. At least now I better understand how difficult it was for Heavenly Father to be separated from us, and how hard it was for him to allow the atonement of Christ to happen. I also have a greater appreciation and understanding of The Plan of Salvation and a greater love of Christ for conquering death and making The Plan possible. I know Heavenly Father truly does love us. As our Father he has many rules for us because he wants us to be safe and happy. He gives us consequences that sometimes are overwhelming to bear, but he forgives us when we apologize (repent). He gives us experiences that teach us and help us to become stronger. Sometimes it feels like tough love, but no other love can compare.
Thee beautiful Keisha with her incredible dad, Harvey Moea’i.
Featured Image: Keisha with her awesome hubby Tevita and their handsome boys.