Monday, August 6, 2007


ENGLISH poet James Flecker once wrote: "Half to forget the wandering and the pain, half to remember days that have gone by, and dream and dream that I am home again."
Home again is exactly where 63-year-old Matai Chee is at the moment.
Matai is a resident of the Father Law Home at Veisari, past Lami town.
He is one of the 27 residents who is still able to use his imagination to create things with his hands.
Born and bred at his village of Muanisolo, Kadavu, Matai is restricted to a wheelchair because his legs have been amputated.
"It is more than two years that I have been here and I have never regretted coming to live in this home," Matai said.
"There is so much love and care here and it is something that we, old people, look for especially when we are sick or need constant assistance."
He said it was a hard decision that his family made for him to be brought to Suva.
"After my legs were amputated, we talked about the situation I was in with my family and we all agreed that I was to be brought over to Suva.
"I knew that this would be the best decision for me because everything was readily available here and I would be able to have access to the best medical facilities in the country. Although emotions were high when I had to leave the village and my family, we all knew it would be for the best."
Matai's wife lives on the island with their six children. At Father Law Home, Matai shares a room with a young man known as Samu, who is paralysed.
"This environment is really a blessing to me because it strengthens my spiritual life."
Matai said his program at the home was one which involved a lot of prayers of thanksgiving.
"I know that the Lord I serve is my strength and that is exactly why I always devote my time to him every day.
"I have my own personal time with the Lord and along with my room-mate, can always sit on our bed and pray whenever we feel like it.
"We know that he has sustained us through his love."
He said it was only through the power of prayer that he was able to find peace within himself.
Matai, in Fijian, has several meanings it could mean smart, skilled or being the first.
These three meanings would perfectly sum up this old man from the southern part of Fiji.
Matai was once urged by the nuns at the home to make use of his hands because he was still strong and had a sharp mind.
"I was given coconut shells and told to create anything out of it."
Like any other Fijian, the first thing that would come to one's mind when given a coconut cup would be the grog bowl.
"I knew a lot of things could be made from coconut shells.
During the Father Law Home open day and bazaar, Matai's table was full of coconut shell products that he created.
The items included curtain holders, candle stands, decorations and accessories such as ear-rings.
"I am really happy and sometimes I am amazed myself when I see what I can do.
"It proves to me that even without my legs, my mind and hands are being blessed by God to create such things for other people."
He said the work he did at the home had occupied his mind so much that he rarely misses his home back on the island.
However, he says that he makes a call to the island now and then to talk to his wife and family when he feels lonely or thinks of them and that is when they come over to visit him at the home.
But for now, Father Law Home is a home away from home for the man mai na sauca.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online