Beloved son dies in a foreign land

Weekender

By HELEN TARAWA

IT is the desire of every father to see his son or daughter complete their education and become successful in life.
And that was the dream of Michael Ipai from Araava village in Baimuru, Gulf when he sent his son Edmund to Honolulu, Hawaii to undergo studies at the Brigham Young University (BYU) in 2015.
On Tuesday Oct 20 when Ipai came to The National office, he struggled to hold tears back as he told the story of how his 27-year-old son died in a car accident.
Ipai was a former employee of Post PNG and currently the acting general secretary of the Communication Workers Union.
“I want this story to go out to Papua New Guinean parents who are planning to send their children overseas.
“It’s a big risk and sacrifice we parents make to see our children further their studies and become successful.
“And for me to see my son’s life end in a foreign land through a fatal car accident was devastating,” Ipai said.
Michael attended Kilakila Primary School and continued onto Kilakila Secondary School where he completed Grade 12 in 2011.
Ipai recalled during that time when Michael was in secondary school that he was sent home due to school fee issues.
At that time current prime Minister James Marape was the education minister who had officiated at an event at Kilakila Secondary School.
He approached Marape and raised his concern about his son being unable to attend school due to nonpayment of fees
Immediately Marape told the school management to let the students return to school. And Michael was able to complete his education.
He was selected to the University of Technology but Ipai was unemployed at that time and could not afford the school fees.
Michael decided to devote his life to being a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints where he was a member.
He worked as a missionary with the church including travelling to New Zealand and during that time had applied to Brigham Young University in Hawaii.
He was accepted by BYU and on Jan 2, 2015 he departed for Honolulu and enrolled for studies. He was fully sponsored by the church.
After four years he graduated with a bachelors’ degree in political science in 2018.
With intentions to pursue further studies, Michael started part-time work last year to raise funds to meet his university costs so he could return in 2021 to complete his final studies in economics.
However, on that fateful Sunday, July 19 (Monday, July 20 PNG time) Michael’s car collided with a bus. He was admitted to the Queens Medical Centre.
Michael was in a coma for more than two weeks before his death on Aug 6.
“My wife Roselyn and I had our hope in Edmund as our only son who had made us proud having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
“We knew he had a bright future ahead and when he asked to remain and undergo further studies, we agreed to support him but he is now gone,” he said.
Despite being traumatised with the fact that Michael was no longer alive, the most important thing for Ipai was to make sure his son’s body was repatriated from Hononlulu to Port Moresby.
He wasted no time in arranging for his son’s body to be brought back to the country.
Ipai said the travel arrangements were all done in Hawaii so all he did was to get in touch with the Foreign Affairs Department to make them aware of his son’s body being repatriated.
“We were fortunate that with God’s grace we were assisted by the Department of Foreign Affairs through our embassy in Washington DC to liaise with citizens and college mates, friends to raise funds and assist the repatriation of our son’s body to PNG during this trying time while the world and USA was experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic,” Ipai said.
Due to the complications with the pandemic protocols and procedures, the late Michael’s body could not be retrieved from Hawaii until Friday Sept 25 when it eventually arrived via Brisbane, Australia.
He said the body of his late son left Honolulu for Sydney on Saturday, Sept 19 and arrived in the country on Sept 25.
Michael leaves behind wife Tara from Honolulu whom he had been married to for over a year.
Ipai said they have been in touch with Tara and she was planning on coming to PNG to visit the family and bring back all of Michael’s belongings.
He said they had laid Michael to rest at the Pari Village on Oct 10, 2020 so that when Tara comes to Port Moresby she would be able to visit his grave.
“We had so much hope and trust in him but he is now gone.
“It is so difficult to believe that my son who had a lot to offer was tragically taken away.
“We thank all the Department of Foreign Affairs team that had assisted us to have our son’s body arrive in the country and be laid to rest.
“We thank everyone who supported us during this time of sorrow,” Ipai said.
Michael’s mother Roselyn spoke over tears of pain in her heart of losing her only son.
“Bel blong mi buruk (my heart is broken), mi nonap lus tingting lo pikini blong mi (I cannot forget my son).
“Bai mi nonap rausim bilak kolos (I will not remove my mourning clothes) inap wanpla krismas na makim de we pikinin blong mi bin kisim bagarap (until this time next year on the day of the car accident),” Roselyn said.
Sonya, the eldest sister of Michael said they learnt of the car accident through their aunt whose daughter was also in Hawaii.
“We were all shocked and stood together in prayer believing and hoping that Michael would make it out of the coma.
“Unfortunately when we heard that he died, we were all heartbroken because he was far away from home.
“He was planning to surprise us by bringing his wife home to meet our family.
“We knew he had gotten married but he never told us of his wife because he had planned to surprise us.
“It is too painful to think about the fact that he will never do that now because he is gone,” Sonya said.
She said Michael was the pride of their small village in Baimuru and all their family members were looking up to him.
“He is our father’s pride and our family looked to him as a role model but that is no longer the case now.
“It will just be a dream,” Sonya said.
The Ipai family’s hope was in their only son to become successful in his career and make his family proud. But that is now only a dream.
The pride of the Ipai family and of the Araava village, Edmund Michael is no more.

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