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Reflections on Easter and Spring: Gov Coleman shares his thoughts just days before his 1997 passing

(Thank you to Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata for sharing this so we can reprint it for our readers. In the following the late Gov. Coleman in his own words shares thoughts of family and faith.)

Yesterday I came home to our family residence here in Hawaii after a stay at Queen’s Hospital over the Easter holidays. While it’s never fun to be in the hospital, this Easter was memorable because all our family gathered to be here with Nora and me in a big family lounge that the hospital set aside for us.

As I said the grace before we began our Easter meal, I could not help but think of the meaning of Easter and Spring, since the first day of Spring this year came only a few days before Palm Sunday, the traditional beginning of our Easter season after the long winter Lent.

Spring and Easter are about the renewal of life and new beginnings. Our Lord perished on the Cross for our sins, but was resurrected to give all of us hope for the future and a better life in eternity. So, too, does Mother Nature awaken each Spring to begin a new cycle of life and growth. On the Mainland, the last of the snow melts away, the flowers begin to bloom and the land is green again. Here in the Pacific where it’s always green, the life-sustaining rains give way to the drier and warmer times of spring and summer and we go about all the chores we had put aside until better weather.

I could not help but think of family in the same way I think of Spring and Easter when I saw all of our family members on Easter, especially the little grandchildren and great grandchildren, great nieces and nephews, all with their wide eyes of expectation and excitement with Easter eggs and candy and Easter baskets, and bunnies and chicks and all the joys and traditions that go with a holiday that brings families together everywhere in the Christian world.

The presence of the little children is God’s way of bringing renewal and new beginnings to our fami- lies. When we look out and see those bright and shining faces, eager to learn about the world around them and beyond, we can take comfort in knowing that this world will be in good hands when their generation takes over. We can find peace in knowing that when our own time comes to join our Lord, if we have done our job on earth, we will have our families to carry on and through them we will continue to live, for our very blood flows through their veins and their children’s veins in a cycle that forever will renew itself.

My own life has been dedicated to service to the people and devotion to my family. Although my days of public service now have come to a close, the Samoan people and all the peoples of the Pacific islands I have been privileged to know in my work and travels remain in my thoughts as a new generation of leaders and servants seeks to find a true path to renewal and new beginnings for our strong but fragile societies and cultures at the dawn of a new century and a new millennium.

God has allowed me to see so much dramatic change through the course of this century. As amazing as it seems, the Samoa of my youth no doubt much more resembled the Samoa of most of the millennium that preceded it than it does the Samoa of today, which is poised to enter the 21st century. The pace of change in this century about to close has been dramatic. As a child in Samoa after World War One, I could not begin to comprehend or imagine the things we take for granted today, from modern medicine to comput- ers to the Hubble Space Telescope. Nor can I begin to imagine now what the next century will bring.

Whether I will be here to witness the beginning of the next millennium and the new beginnings it will prompt is in God’s hands. But wherever I may be and whatever advances science and industry may bring, I know that the future will be bright if we remain true to our values. Those values are love of God, devotion to family, protection of culture, and courtesy and respect towards one another.

For myself, it counts little what I may have achieved here on earth in 55 years of government service through war and peace. My failures were my own and my successes were the result of all the good col- leagues and friends around me. But, for all of us, no matter what our calling in life, our truest legacies are the families that are asked to carry on when we are gone.

So, while my days in public service may be finished, I have come home now to be with my family. They bring me joy and inspiration as I think about the future. They are all here now and I take great comfort in their presence. They have come to be with Nora and me from near and far: from the Mainland to Saipan to our beloved Samoa. And because they are so scattered, I have agreed to a consensus of my family’s wishes that I should lie in rest in Hawaii. But in so doing, they have assented to my wish that when the last of my chil- dren’s children shall have joined me in heaven, that my final resting place shall be in the soil of my birth.

For now, when I think of Spring and think of Easter, I thank God I have been given one more opportunity to reflect on life’s renewal and new beginnings, and the love of family that bursts forth like the flowers of Spring. As the Easter season now ends and we move about in our Spring tasks, may God bless you and your families, too.

(Written in Honolulu, Hawaii - April 5, 1997 just prior to his passing on April 28, 1997.)