Life goes on – with­out Lisa

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By SHILO KINO

‘‘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.

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