Acceptance of the end of life

Someone else is about to become the oldest living graduate of Kamehameha Schools, as my mother–Class of 1931–prepares to relinquish her hold on the informal title.

She’s getting the best of care. She is resting more comfortably than any time in recent months. But she is no longer responding to the world. She apparently is no longer hungry or thirsty. She had feared death, but now appears to accept it. She seems relaxed. She is ready.

Here’s how quickly things can change. Not long ago, she announced that Harry & David was having a sale, and so she ordered a two boxes of pears. She remembered that we were going to Maui for a few days and wanted to make sure that we would be back when the pears arrived. That was then. The pears were just delivered to her home in Kahala, but she won’t be back to enjoy them. It’s all matter of timing.

There are many lessons here. The Big One–enjoy it all while you can. Seriously.

In the meantime, I can say this. I am my mother’s son.

She taught me the basics of getting around the kitchen and making simple breakfast treats. Pancakes, muffins, popovers. But then she added the big lesson. When I pestered her for more information about the next level of cooking skills, she said simply, “If you can read, you can cook.”


Look it up, read about and learn from the experience of others, but find your own way.

It applied to cooking, and then to the rest of life.

When I had those typical kid questions–why is the sky blue, where does lightning come from, and so on–she pointed to the set of World Book Encyclopedias that probably took up six-months of her discretionary spending. The message was the same. If you can read, you’ll find the answers on your own.

Meda and I have jokingly referred to my mother as “the woman who knows everything.” Hawaii history, families, events, flowers, cooking, genealogy, plus the common sense gained from the experiences of a very long life.

Our world is going to be different without her.

13 responses to “Acceptance of the end of life

  1. What a wonderful way of looking at life. Enjoy it while you can! I am all for it, Ian. Blessings to you and your family.

  2. What a wonderful gift she gave when she showed you the value of reading. Sending comfort and love, Ian, during this time.

  3. Thanks for sharing.I am glad that your mother is at peace!

  4. A wonderful post…a tribute to your Mom.

  5. Thanks, Ian, for sharing your mother’s story. And your father’s before.

    My own father is nearing his death and I have recognized from your observations, that he is not alone in this. And I am not alone in experiencing his upcoming death.

    You provide many valuable services to the public. On issues, on process. And on the process of living, of remembering and of dying.

    Thank you. With warm regards.

  6. An old friend passed recently… I was talking to his brother who said that he was at a loss because his hero had died. All I could say was that the time comes we have to step up to be our own heroes.

  7. Aloha Ian,

    Another connection we have is that my grandmother, Frances Pupua Townsend was also a member of KS 1931. She passed away a few days after her 97th birthday. She was one of a small group that attended their 75th class reunion…perhaps your mom was in attendance? Anyway, quite an accomplishment to live such a long and fruitful life. Me ke aloha pumehana.

  8. Your mom gave you a lasting gift. You hafta read before you can write. Our small home was full of books as we grew up and matured from racy novels to biographies and history and, yes, comic books. At that time teachers frowned on parents who permitted comic books.

    My mom’s reply was “as long as they are reading.” We took regular trips to our town’s tiny library and it was a family adventure we anticipated.

    My mom, who died at 83, had a unfinished biography on her bedroom nightstand. Reading is a key to life. She understood its value and so did your mom. We should be forever grateful for such models.

  9. I’m sorry you’re saying good-bye to your mother, but honored you’re sharing the experience with us.

  10. Mahalo for sharing, Ian. Sending peace and love to all of you!

  11. Very beautiful tribute to your Mom, Ian.

    Take care.

  12. Aloha to you all.

    Jim & Shannon

  13. Like the best of tributes. Your superb writing makes me want to know your mother. I like the way she encouraged you to do your own seeking. She wanted you to have the thrill of learning new things on your own. Her students must have loved her.

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