Life goes on – without Lisa
‘‘Does he know how much I love him? How blessed I am to find this man.’’
Those were Lisa Finau’s final words, written on a scrap of paper moments before she died.
The Mangere mother-of-six was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and died in April with husband Joseph and her beloved children by her side.
‘‘She was strong,’’ Joseph says. ‘‘If anyone would describe her, they would say she was a survivor.’’
She was also the family’s rock and her death sent Joseph into a downward spiral to depression.
But her strong will gave him the strength to pick himself up and he resigned from his job as a butcher to become a fulltime carer for his family.
‘‘My wife is a cricket – I hear her voice all the time. She is always with me.’’
He now devotes his life to being a good father to his children who range in age from 19 months to 15 years.
His biggest challenge is taking care of Faith, 8, and Christopher, 5, who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
‘‘I didn’t know anything about autism. I took courses, but there isn’t a manual book – it’s something you have to learn yourself,’’ he says.
‘‘Trying to get everyone to stick together while they are still in the stages of grieving is a struggle.’’
Three of the children – Faith, Junior, 9, and Chris – have been matched with a sponsor through the Variety Kiwi Kids Sponsorship programme. The scheme has given them bedding, clothing, shoes and help with school costs.
But it is a mini indoor trampoline and an outdoor trampoline that has made the world of difference.
Joseph often had to call the police after Faith and Christopher wandered from home in search of a trampoline.
The two need sensory feedback because of their autism and jumping gives them that.
Variety gave the family a grant to buy the trampolines and the kids are now able to play for hours and stay safe.
‘‘We are still grieving but without Variety life would be much harder,’’ Joseph says. ‘‘They’ve put happiness in the kids’ lives. I can’t explain it – you can see by the way they do things, their attitude and the look in their eyes.’’
Lisa’s final wish was to marry Joseph so they could seal their family forever.
The couple were married in the chapel at Auckland Hospital on Lisa’s birthday in June last year.
‘‘The moment I saw her I started crying. She looked beautiful. She was glowing,’’ Joseph says.
That image keeps him going.
‘‘Time heals and I’m just trying to be strong for these guys.
‘‘But there’s always that emptiness when you lose someone you love.’’
Before Lisa died, she had begun composing a eulogy to Joseph and the kids.
‘‘I don’t know which is more painful – the pain of cancer or the pain of losing my family,’’ she wrote.
‘‘But this beautiful link we share – it is a miracle.’’
Family first: Joseph Finau is a devoted father to his children, from left, Christopher, 5, Antonio, 15, John-Peter, 19 months, Junior, 9, and Faith, 8.
Cherished memory: Joseph’s fondest memory of his wife is marrying her at the chapel at Auckland Hospital.
Glowing bride: Lisa’s final wish was to marry Joseph so they could seal their family forever. This image of his wife ‘‘glowing’’ keeps Joseph going.