Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Widow mourns after sudden death of 29-year-old husband

Looking at a photo taken on their wedding day, Natasha Finau is suddenly lost in a distant memory. In the photo, she is wearing a stunning designer white gown. Her husband sports a large Tongan mat around his waist and body.

"It was his grandfather's. He really wanted to do the big Tongan thing," she smiles.

Just over a week ago, Metui Finau, the man who became Natasha's husband about 18 months ago, suddenly died. The couple, who had been together for almost 10 years, were taking part in a training exercise in a bid to become healthier people, when he suddenly collapsed.

The cause of Mr Finau's death is yet to be determined.

The 29-year-old was well known in Auckland's Pasifika community, especially among Tongans.

Mr Finau is survived by his parents, the Reverend Viliami and Tui'pulotupauu Finau, his six siblings and wife Natasha.

A proud Kelston Boys' High old boy, he shot to fame in the mid-2000s when he joined the popular Kiwi Pacific band Spacifix. One of their biggest hits, in 2006, was Sunshine Day, in which he was the lead rapper.

In later years, he worked closely with youth and in education.

Speaking to the Herald last night, Mrs Finau reflected on the sudden passing of the man she first met at church - and the impact he had on the lives of many, particularly Pasifika youth.

"The band came to perform at a youth service one night and I was singing for the first time. I didn't know who they were. I just saw a bunch of boys with big, crazy hair and really colourful clothes. They performed, and he asked someone who knew me about who I was."

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She later invited him to her 21st birthday party. He declined, saying the band had a gig that night.

"He didn't know that my dad had hired them for my 21st," she laughed.

That night, he wrote "really beautiful love notes" in her guest book. The band were moving to Australia and he was worried that if he asked her out, she would say no.

"I gave him a call and said I would have said yes if he'd asked. It kind of just hit off from there."

The couple married in late 2014 in an intimate wedding celebrated with friends and family in Fiji.

Mrs Finau said in recent years they had made a move to become better people - both in mind and body.

They had enrolled in a 12-week fitness challenge and were taking part in a running test when tragedy struck.

"We had to do two rounds of a block. We were so excited to get this run out of the way. It started and he was like, 'I love you.' I said, 'I love you, too.' He said, 'You've got this. You can smash it.' And that was the last I heard. The minute he said that, I gave it my all and took off."

He later collapsed, and was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Mrs Finau said the past few days had been overwhelming, but had been made easier for her and their family by the support of the public.

Kiwi musicians and members of the Warriors rugby league team are among those to have paid tribute to a cheeky young man who was a talented performer and had the ability to make people laugh.

His passion for music and people had seen hundreds of people make contact to share how Mr Finau had helped them in their lives.

"He loved his time with Spacifix. But for him it was more about his relationship with the boys in the band," Mrs Finau said.

"For him, he loved to perform and entertain people. But what was really important to him was just doing what he loved and he just loved being on stage to make people happy."

Mrs Finau took a deep breath before speaking about her husband's last day.

"My last day with Tui was Thursday last week and he was running late to a meeting that he had called at his new job [as a youth adviser in South Auckland]. He was late because I wanted to cook him breakfast and make his lunch.

"I don't know if I would've been bothered to get out of bed, myself, but he had just been so loving in the last couple of weeks. I was just so in love and I wanted to out-do him for all the little things that he was doing for me.

Mr Finau in his early 20s. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Mr Finau in his early 20s. Photo / Steven McNicholl

"Having him say goodbye to me and use so many terms of endearment was just something that had become really normal. It was just so normal to me because that's just how loving he was."

Asked how she would remember her husband, Mrs Finau said: "I'm really gonna miss how well he took care of me. He spoiled me and made me feel like I was the only female on this planet.

"Little things that would make me upset, he'd take it seriously. He'd pull over and he'd give me time and speak to my heart. He'd just really love me. He just brought a joy that I never thought I would ever experience.

"He made you feel that you didn't have to be cool. You could just be yourself and that was cool."

Mr Finau is survived by his parents, the Reverend Viliami and Tui'pulotupauu Finau, his six siblings and wife Natasha.

Two services have already been held in Mr Finau's honour and there'll be another tonight. A final farewell will be held tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

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