A lot can happen in a week. And in Samoa today, there is reason to be sad.
The obvious one is the passing of a great yet humble man who is on the front page of the newspaper you are reading today.
There will never be another La’auli Alan Grey. God Almighty only creates originals. We can go on and on about his legacy – which we could, given the person that he was - but that will not bring him back. He has been called by his Maker so that all we are left with today is his legacy and the impact his wonderful, well-lived life, had on many people. What a man!
He was indeed one in a million, as all the wonderful tributes printed today and during the past week, have testified. The fact is this country is a better place having had someone like La’auli.
His passing completes what had been a very difficult week for the sport of rugby in Samoa and New Zealand. It started last Tuesday when the news arrived that former Manu Samoa and All Black, Tiumalu Dylan Mika, died from a heart attack.
Looking back now, we can say two great men; both humble and meek, all gone within a few days. The only difference is that while La’auli had completed all God had gifted him to do; Tiumalu has left us too soon, way too soon.
Ironically, while Samoa paused to bid La’auli farewell yesterday, in New Zealand, the global rugby family stopped to say goodbye to Tiumalu, who was also laid to rest yesterday.
Today we are left with sadness, tears and in shock. Personally, I knew both men so it has been difficult.
But I’m not the only one. This column paid tribute to La’auli yesterday so I will not venture there anymore.
When it comes to Tiumalu though, he really was a gentle giant. It’s a trait reflected in everything he did, including in conversation. You cannot find a more gentle and softly spoken giant.
He wasn’t just a giant on the rugby field, he was one of those guys who always wanted to make sure people were looked after.
“He was really well liked and very well regarded, and he just had a way with people really,” said Sir Tuifaasisina Bryan Williams said in his tribute. “Relatively quiet but he always had a big grin on his face and he’s gone on to forge a pretty successful business career as well. He’s going to be sadly missed, I’m really lost for words to be honest.”
Former All Blacks coach John Hart remembered a brave man.
“Given the condition that afflicted him throughout his career, his performances on the field with such a medical handbrake were truly special,” he said. “He was everything you wanted in an All Black, a true team man on and off field, totally committed to the cause and never giving anything but 100 percent.”
Former All Black captain, Tana Umaga, remembered Tiumalu as a “quiet man who let his game do the talking” and said “you wouldn’t find a more kind-hearted person”.He never wasted a day ... he knew what he had, but didn’t let it define him. He didn’t make excuses. That was his lot in life and wasn’t going to be what he was all about,” Umaga said.
Sir La’auli Michael Jones said: “He just quietly moved through the ranks and there was a lot of talk that Dylan had the potential to really step into more responsibility in governance and strategic roles on rugby boards.
“He was earmarked by a lot of people to have a lot more influence on our game. If he was going to do something, he did it 110 per cent. What he said, he delivered; very efficiently and effectively making things happen. Sometimes I would forget he was seven years younger than me because was naturally leading the way. He just commanded so much mana and influence with his action-orientated approach.”
Closer to home, former Manu Samoa coach and player, Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, paid tribute to a humble giant who commanded much respect.
“We’ll miss his guidance, and certainly his friendship.”
Namulauulu couldn’t have said it better.
Everyone who knew Tiumalu would be feeling the same. A huge, huge loss.
Last week was that kind of week. A very sad week but it is what it is.
As we mourn, let’s remember that today is a gift while tomorrow is the unknown. You see, we live in a world where we are here this minute and gone the next. It’s instant. Life can quickly change.
Which means we must never take a moment for granted. We must learn to count our blessings, appreciate the gift of life, love the people near us and even the challenges that make us better people. Forgive, be grateful, stay humble and meek and always try to make someone else’s life better.
Have a wonderful Thursday Samoa, God bless!