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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
PROUD OF MY SON"
SEASONS OF GRACE
"I cannot adequately express the joy I've
experienced being Daniel's mother." These
words of Maureen Christie moved me
greatly when I viewed the Hillsong funeral
of her son, one-punch victim, Daniel.
Maureen evoked an image of a young
man -- whose body lay in a coffin before
her -- who was wise beyond his year s,
deter mined about his path, and loving and
caring to his family and to all. Despite her
grief, Maureen was proud and grateful.
"My name is Tinah, and I had the great
privilege of being the mother to Emmanuel
Another mother; another son deceased;
another example of motherly pride and
gratitude for a son gr aced with caring and
wisdom and strength during his too-brief
stay on earth.
This is the story of
Mum, Tinah Tohi,
and her almost
Emmanuel was bor n
at Newcastle's John
Hunter Hospital. He
died in Melbourne
on 1 December
last year, victim for
two years of a brain
disease for which there
was no treatment and
no cure. He did not live to
fulfil his dream of retur ning to
Newcastle to attend university.
Like Maureen, Tinah could not but speak
of her joy in her son. She had retur ned
to Corpus Christi Church, Waratah, for
a Mass to celebr ate Emmanuel with his
Newcastle connection, those who shared
his life here before the family's move to
Prior to the move Emmanuel had
completed his first year of secondary
schooling at St Pius X, Adamstown. His
connection also embraced teachers and
students at Corpus Christi, Waratah, his
team-mates in local rugby union and league
clubs, and the many he joined in church
activities, especially youth events involving
his musical talents.
According to his Mum, Emmanuel
experienced a highlight in his brief life when
World Youth Day was celebr ated here in
2008 and Emmanuel found himself among
thousands of youngsters celebrating the
faith he valued.
His faith was a serious matter, and joyful.
Perhaps being a Christmas baby and
being named Emmanuel (Hebrew for
'God is with us') foretold that it would be.
According to Tinah, "over the year s he
really did live up to the name, as he lived
out a simple Christian life, reminding his
friends and family, through his actions, that
God is always with us."
As the second-born of ten children,
and with a well-established identity
within ex tended family and community,
Emmanuel was blessed with a great star t
in life. The beach and fishing featured in his
Newcastle upbringing. His nature seemed
blessed, too. Despite being an active boy
he was gentle with his siblings, cousins and
peer s, a ready sharer, and respectful and
obedient to the adults in his life.
"From a young age Emmanuel was a boy
full of wonder and awe. He loved lear ning,
and his favourite subjects were Science and
Religion." He had "a very strong Catholic
faith. He seemed to grow in faith and have
more cour age to do things that he nor mally
wouldn't do. I remember being surprised
at his Communion par ty, when I jokingly
a sked my quiet son to do a speech to the
one hundred and fifty people present, and
he got up and did one."
In his secondary school year s
Emmanuel "loved to talk
about spiritual matter s"
and tried to convince his
friends of the existence
of God. However, his
"ver y strong faith...was
seen more through his
actions than what he
said" according to Tinah.
Sometimes he passed up
lunch so that he had money
to buy treats for his little
brothers and sisters whom he
In contr ast to Daniel's sudden one-punch
death, Emmanuel suffered a two-year
relentless decline. He was fifteen when
he suddenly star ted to have difficulty with
homework; his hearing deterior ated; he
got lost at school. Then the diagnosis -- and
"When Emmanuel found out he was dying,
and that medicine could not help him at all,
he relied totally on God....I told him that
we would stor m heaven with pr ayer s, and
that God would be so sick of us asking him
to heal him, that he would have to listen.
Emmanuel said to me, "at the end of your
pr ayer s you need to say: Thy will be done,
because I will only get better if it is God's
will.' My son often came out with these
wise thoughts. I thought that I was the one
to teach him about our faith, but in the end
he started teaching me.
"Emmanuel's deter mination and joy in what
he could still achieve were inspirational.
He persevered at school and was out
and about as long as he could be. When
completely blind and almost deaf, he
discovered that he could walk around the
oval, with his hand on the fence to guide
him. He was so happy that he did not need
us to show him where to go, that he could
do laps around the oval like this for hour s ."
Emmanuel attended Mass daily even
as blindness, deafness and immobility
so sick of us
asking him to
heal him, that he
would have to
BY MICHAEL O'CONNOR
inexorably progressed. When completely
bedridden he wanted daily Eucharist and
prevailed on his family to attend Mass and
bring Communion to him. He admonished
his Mum, "Ar e you going to keep going to
daily Mass if I don't get healed? You can't
just stop if I don't get better. . ."
Other for ms of pr ayer also str engthened
Emmanuel and his family. He wanted them
to pray the Rosary and the Divine Mercy
prayer s together. "He did not pray for
himself, but his family, other sick people
and depar ted souls in purgatory." He died
peacefully while his family was gathered
around him, pr aying with him and for him.
"It was difficult to watch the prison he was
in, and the suffering he went through, but
we all tr usted that God loved Emmanuel
more than we did, and that there had to
be good rea sons for Emmanuel having
to go through this. We could alr eady
see many of his friends, family and even
stranger s praying mor e ever y day, and
getting closer to God themselves, as they
asked God to help Emmanuel.
"His devotion to God inspired many. If
Emmanuel could still be so devoted to
God, when he was given such a horrible
disease, then it became a great lesson to
all of us , to not give up our faith, when
difficulties presented themselves in our
"You can either lose your faith completely,
and wonder how God could let this
happen, or rely totally on God to cope
with all of it.
"In the end, I am so proud of my son, for
the shor t but cour ageous life that he led."
Like Maureen Christie, Tinah Tohi
treasur es the gift of her son and values
the gift of motherhood. Both endur e
great loss and both will ache and question
throughout their entir e lives. I think
that both will continue to be consoled,
delighted and inspir ed by the goodness and
beauty they see in their sons which will live
on with them forever.
I think they know intuitively that
motherhood is God's attribute with which
they have been gr aced, and that God's
motherly love enfolds their sons even
more than their own plenteous love. If
God is love, as St John assures us, then
God is the best of mothers.
Rest in peace, Emmanuel Tohi.
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