Tag Archives: death

Pain and Sorrow in 2017

We started off 2017 losing the matriarch from my boyfriend’s family.  Aunty Laka passed away unexpectedly.  I never met her in person and I am just getting to know most of his cousins and such but I know my boyfriend.  He is big and tough with a heart of gold.  The amount of love he has to share with the world is rooted in his up-bringing and family background.  He’s shared stories of family get-togethers over the years with me.  They sound like the typical Islander gatherings:  lots of food and laughter and fun.  And razzing.  And singing.  And dancing.  And more laughter and food.

 

The loss hit him really hard.  For various reasons over the past twenty years or so, he hasn’t spent much time with this side of his family.  And memories of losing his parents flooded his thoughts.  We had just gotten back from being in North Carolina for a week-long karate tournament (Super Grands), took a deep breath to prepare to host houseguests over the first weekend of 2017.  Hearing the news that Aunty Laka had passed away took the little wind out of our sails that we had inhaled.

 

Before Aunty Laka’s funeral, Uncle Joe and his family came to town from Seattle to hold a memorial to recognize the two-year anniversary of Aunty Honey-Girl passing away.  This memorial brought together our martial arts ‘ohana and it was a reunion of sorts.  I saw people I hadn’t seen in years. And interestingly enough, Uncle Joe is related to my kumu hula!  They were able to spend a couple of hours together over the weekend and catch up on life.  That surprise was a nice balance to all the sorrow surrounding us in 2017.

 

But before we could pause to let the sorrow pass, I was informed that one of my friends, Valerie, had passed away. I met Val right before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Val was energetic, positive, full of love, and a fighter until the end.  Valerie was diagnosed with breast cancer, beat it and was re-diagnosed with stage four spinal cancer. Valerie passed away at the young age of 42.  The love that she and Paula shared was inspirational. Val will be incredibly missed by all whose lives she has touched. God bless your soul, Val. I am sending Aloha and light to you and Paula and Aunty Laka and Aunty Honey-girl.

 

I’m tired of all the pain and sorrow in 2017.

 

“Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day, unseen, unheard, but always near, still loved, still missed and very dear.”

Cancer sucks, Life is short, and we must Live Aloha all in, every day.

September 22, 2016

By the time I staggered out of bed this morning, my daughter was already wide awake, dressed for school and eating breakfast.  She was rocking her white Chucks and her million dollar smile bright and early at 7:00a.m. today.  And my boyfriend had been out of the house for at least an hour, maybe two.  I remember feeling his butterfly kisses  across my cheeks and nose early this morning, and heard his sweet whisper, “Ok Lovely, have  good day.  I love you.  See you soon.”  After hitting the snooze button twice, I dragged myself to the bathroom to shower and get ready for a long day.

As I stood in front of my closet, draped in my pastel pink leopard printed robe, I contemplated what to wear.  How do I make a fashion decision on what to wear when my day would consist of the following:  work, conference call, funeral at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach, a career counseling phone call with a colleague/friend, my annual visit to the gynecologist, and back to work at the Toyota Automotive Museum for an event to launch the 2016 Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks with 75 D&I practitioners from across Los Angeles.  What shoes does one wear for such a busy, action-packed day?  I opted for a chic but comfortable color-blocked tan, cream, and black sheath with a tan blazer on top.  It felt fashionable and conservative without being too churchy and boring.   During the day I wore my sensible wedges with my sexy color blocked heels safely tucked away in my car for tonight.  There is something about an evening event that just requires sexy heels.

The environment at work has been one of turmoil and change.  One of my dearest mentors and former bosses is retiring in about a week.  I’ve asked colleague to send cards, photos and notes of gratitude to me so I can paste them into a scrapbook of Memories for Midge.  I don’t know how to scrapbook but I’ve got scissors, non-acid glue, colored paper, and an album.  Hope it all turns out ok.

Thinking about her retirement and my eventual separation from my place of employment has me feeling sentimental.  My buddies at work have already relocated to North Texas so my days at work are much more subdued and quiet.  I feel like my friends are gone and that makes for a lot less fun during the workday.

Yesterday, I opened my email and read that one of my colleagues and friends who worked on a huge diversity project with me over the past ten years passed away and her funeral would happen this morning.  She will be laid to rest on Friday.  I know she has been fighting cancer for years and had spent months at a stretch on medical leave, undergoing various treatments and somehow defying her doctors’ expectations and recovering each time.   But I haven’t worked with her for several months and literally just discovered that she had passed away one week ago today.

Death is a part of life, right?  We are put on this earth to contribute somehow by living a full and productive life.  Some of us teach, some of us work, and others of us take care of the planet and the planet inhabitants unselfishly and freely.  But cancer.  Why do some people have to fight against a disease like cancer to have the strength to teach, to work, and to give freely?  It doesn’t seem fair that the people who seem the most generous and selfless have to fight against cancer.  Why don’t more assholes and racists and bigots and misogynists and murderers and pedophiles get cancer?  Why do the nicest people get hit with one of the cruelest diseases?

Cancer make no sense to me.  Wikipedia says that Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Not all tumors are cancerous; benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body.  Possible signs and symptoms include a lump, abnormal bleeding, prolonged cough, unexplained weight loss and a change in bowel movements. While these symptoms may indicate cancer, they may have other causes.  Over 100 cancers affect humans. I think about all of the loved ones my family has lost to cancer.  I think about my dear friends who are fighting against cancer right now, as I typed these words across my Kensington keyboard.  The article goes on to say that 15% of deaths are caused by cancer.  Cancer also increased the risk of anxiety and depression in patients who already have a propensity for it.  I hate cancer.

The funeral was filled with choir songs, as my friend was an extremely talented singer who loved all kinds of music.  The young priest talked about how even though we are mourning, today would be about the celebration of life and reconnecting with our faith, as my friend stood strong in her religious beliefs.  Even though funerals suck the energy out of me, I think it was good for me to attend Mass today.  I thanked God for my many blessings, I prayed for the health of my family and friends, and I sat still for over an hour.  A few minutes of meditation did me good today, as the world is in turmoil around us.  I sat still and remembered my friend and was reminded that cancer sucks, life is short, and we must Live Aloha all in, every day.

 

 

 

Births and Deaths – My Ash Wednesday 2015

Ash Wednesday is the one day of the year that brings me to church. I love the sentiment of focusing energy on one of the three things that the Catholic Church emphasizes during Lent, alms. The concept of alms is to humbly help people in need, with monetary donations or volunteering your time and energy in some way. Officially, Ash Wednesday is observed through fasting, abstinence from meat (cow and fowl) and repentance. For Pi’i, Ash Wednesday is about contemplating the past year and being deliberate about how I want to be in the year to come. Living the Aloha Spirit is the goal. The Aloha Spirit is about giving back selflessly, just as I interpret the concept of giving alms. So Ash Wednesday becomes a mash-up of the sparse religious education I received as a child, the values my parents imparted on me and the Aloha Spirit that I have adopted as a part of my life.

“The Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the Self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, Aloha, the following unuhi laulâ loa (free translation) may be used:

A – Akahai, meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness;

L – Lôkahi, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;

O – `Olu`olu, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;

H – Ha`aha`a, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;

A – Ahonui, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.

These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii.

Aloha is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation.

Aloha means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return.

Aloha is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.

Aloha means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”   http://www.atchawaii.com/LocalInfo/alohaspirit.html

I say all that because in 2015, my Ash Wednesday took me on an emotional roller coaster of sorts, as I meditated on my 2014 and envisioned what I wanted for the coming year. This week is packed with celebrations. The country observed the legal President’s Day holiday on the heels of the very commercialized Valentine’s Day. Then Ash Wednesday popped up, earlier than I expected. And the day after, we celebrate Lunar New Year, the anniversary of when I launched this blog. On a personal note, this Saturday is my father’s 80th birthday and we will all be together to eat a big meal and share some laughs. These are all pleasant occurrences, filled with giggles and celebrations and tradition. But this year on Ash Wednesday, I also felt sadness for a friend and a family member.

Today, I signed a condolence card for my friend at work. Her mother passed away last weekend. I know her mom has been ill for a while but I am sure she and her family were not prepared for this loss. To make matters worse, her mother lives 2,000 miles away in Ohio. There are no words of comfort that feel sincere, in my opinion, when writing on a Hallmark card. I would prefer to just hug my friend or hold her hand or just sit in silence with her. But I can’t so I wrote words on the Hallmark card to try to convey the sentiment that I feel for her.

That brings me to another death that our extended family has experienced recently and added a funeral to our week of celebrations. My extended family, a second cousin, experienced the most horrific thing a mother could possibly experience. She came home from work in the early evening to discover that her teenaged daughter had committed suicide. The details aren’t important as to how it happened, the only thing that matters is that her daughter is gone. I don’t know her daughter really well and I haven’t spent much time with this cousin since I’ve moved away from the Central Coast. But I am a mother of a teenaged daughter and our girls are only a few weeks apart in age and I know they had played together during numerous family reunions and baptisms and parties. And I can’t stop thinking about how much it must hurt.

The teenage years are incredible difficult. Peer pressure, hormones, Asian mothers, all impart incredible amounts of stress and uncertainty and confusion for a teen. I am sure that this young woman also had some sort of additional emotional challenges to deal with, as if being a teenager isn’t hard enough. Perhaps she needed medication but stopped taking it. Maybe she had a therapist that she couldn’t connect to or feel comfortable enough to truly share. Who knows what triggered this young woman to do what she did. I just hurt at the loss of her young life and I ache for the pain her mother must be feeling.

Thankfully, the second card I signed at work was for a baby shower. Another friend who I worked with six years ago is finally pregnant. She and her husband dated long distance for a couple of years before they moved in together. We used to go to lunch and I would outline my dating adventures while she would listen and laugh. For some reason, my friends found my dating life to be more entertaining than reality TV. I am happy to have a reminder that life goes on, despite the pain that others are experiencing. And as the season of Lent begins, I am holding my daughter a little closer and taking a more deliberate approach to living the Aloha Spirit. I also am giving up booze and baked goods. If I fall off the Lenten wagon, expect a big financial donation to a non-profit to come. The happy news of my friend and her husband expecting a baby brought me back to the Aloha Spirit, “the coordination of mind and heart within each person…Each person must think and emote good feelings to others.”