The first telephone call I made on Thursday morning after getting the news of my sister’s death was to her son, Kimo, in California.
He had already been at work for at least a couple of hours, and I had to leave a message. He left work for the day after getting the news and called back a little later.
“She did this to me,” he said with sort of a low chuckle.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s our anniversary,” Kimo said.
I wasn’t sure what he was saying.
He went on.
“October 13. Sabrina and I were married last year on Maui. It was October 13. It’s our first anniversary.”
“Oh, yes!” Kimo replied. “She did it! I think she waited,” laughing now. “She wanted to make sure that I would always remember her every year! And you don’t forget your anniversary.”
We’re in a barren little meeting room at the Nuuanu Memorial Park and Mortuary. We’re waiting to sign the papers necessary for my sister’s cremation to move forward.
My mother’s parents–my grandparents–along with several friends and other relatives are buried next to each other in a corner of the old cemetery just across from the mortuary office.
Then a surprise.
We hadn’t gotten very far before discovering that I’m not authorized to approve the cremation. Her executor or personal representative must do that. Although I’ve been the trustee since her personal trust was created in July, she appointed her son and an old friend as her “personal representatives.” They live in different parts of California, requiring a long-distance approval process with emailed forms that need to be notarized and returned. Until that’s accomplished, what’s left of Bonnie remains on hold. It’s the first legal/bureaucratic hurdle we have to scramble over. I’m sure it won’t be the last.
The second surprise wasn’t long in coming. As we were filling out paperwork, the mortuary rep mention a change in policy by the Star-Advertiser.
The state’s largest newspaper and only daily newspaper on Oahu no longer lists surviving family members in its free obituaries. Now if you want the obit to include surviving spouse and children/grandchildren, the family has to buy a “family placed obituary.”
I don’t know what this costs, but I’m confident it’s not inexpensive.
I immediately thought of how this dramatically undermines the newspaper’s value as a source of the information found in traditional obituaries. As an investigative reporter, I’ve probably compiled backgrounds on hundreds of politicians, business people, and others that have been involved in matters I’ve dug into. Obituaries are a standard source which, for example, can help you identify an elected officials siblings and cousins, always sources of potential conflicts to keep track of. And what about future family genealogists? Their explorations just got harder as well.
And, for the record: Bonnie Pauahi Stevens is survived by a brother, Ian Lind, and a sister, Jacqueline Chappel, both of Honolulu; son, James P. Lamont of Manteca, California; daughter, Christina Kemp of Seattle, and seven grandchildren.