Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you. — Frances H. Kakugawa
As this issue of The Hawai‘i Herald reaches you, I am in New Jersey to speak and lead a workshop at the Brookdale Foundation National Respite and RAPP (Relatives as Parents Program) conference. I knew I would be away, so I decided to devote this month’s column to book reviews. I’ll address questions and/or contributions from readers in my December column.
I highly recommend the following books.
“The Book of Joy” by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.
Here are some quotations from the book:
“Two Nobel Prize recipients, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who survived more than 50 years of exile and soul-wrenching violence of oppression are the two most joyful people on our planet. They become happy children together, teasing and sharing their spiritual practices. In one scene, the Dalai Lama whose vows prohibit dancing, bows to Tutu’s hand to dance with him.
“What lessons and insights they offer us, from joy to compassion.
“Their message is one we live with, that the only way to change the world is through compassion, kindness and genuine regard for others’ well-being. Religion is not sufficient to promote basic human values.
“Suffering with others reminds us that we are not alone, and it actually lessens our own pain. Suffering lessens our own rigid sense of self and the boundaries that separate us from others.”
“The Book of Joy” also includes eight pillars of joy and specific ways to meditate.
I was inspired that they shared stories of how to be at peace with the world. For instance, a driver who cut in front of Tutu is interpreted as a driver needing to get to the hospital due to an emergency. Don’t we all tell such stories in order to allow compassion into our lives?
The second book, “The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing,” was edited by Kevin Young. It is an anthology of poems written by 20th century poets — with a few from beyond. The poems are presented in six different sub-topics, thus offering readers poetry from the various stages of living loss.
• On Reckoning: “Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.” — William Faulkner
• On Regret: “I believe, but what is a belief?” — Anne Stevenson
• On Remembrance: “What did I know, what did I know . . .” — Robert Hayden
• On Ritual: “Tomorrow, the bowl I have yet to fill.” — Natasha Tretheway
• On Recovery: “I learn by going where I have to go.” — Theodore Roethke
• On Redemption: “What will survive of us is love.” — Philip Larkin
Here is one poem from the anthology under the section titled “Ritual.”
“I NEEDED TO TALK TO MY SISTER”
— by Grace Paley
I needed to talk to my sister
talk to her on the telephone I mean
just as I used to every morning
in the evening too whenever the
grandchildren said a sentence that
clasped both our hearts
I called her phone rang four times
You can imagine my breath stopped then
there was a terrible telephone noise
a voice said this number is no
longer in use how wonderful I
thought I can
call again they have not yet assigned
her number to another person despite
two years of absence due to death
The following is excerpted from Walt Whitman’s poem, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” on the subject of grief.
O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved? And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?
Since I’m on a working vacation, how about you taking a sort of “vacation” by reading two books that are not about giving care? Read them just for enjoyment. Both books are presented in a letter writing style between the main character and others. I finished reading these books in two days. Actually, I purposely took my time reading them to put off reaching the last page.
The first book is titled “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
Read this book first. The main character exchanges letters with members of a book club during the Nazi infiltration. The letters are filled with humor and the realities of war.
The second book, a novel, is Anne Youngson’s “Meet Me at the Museum.”
While reading this book, I stopped between the pages to go outside and watch a hummingbird sip nectar out of two morning glories. I also took the time to look at the design of various leaves, appreciating nature’s work, and put Charles Lamb’s work on my reading list. It is that kind of a book.
This is all I’m going to say. I’ll wait for your comments on these books.
From New Jersey . . . take care.
Frances Kakugawa was her mother’s primary caregiver during her five-year journey with Alzheimer’s disease. A native of Kapoho on Hawai‘i island, she now lives in Sacramento. Frances has melded her professional training as a writer and educator and her personal caregiving experiences to write several books on caring for people with memory-related illnesses. She is a sought-after speaker, both in Hawai‘i and on the Mainland, sharing strategies for caregiving, as well as coping with the stresses of caregiving.