Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you. — Frances H. Kakugawa

Dear Frances,

I heard you speak a few years ago in Kona. I’m now caring for my mother. I’m trying to write down some of our times together. Writing does help. Here is one that I recently wrote:

As she wakes up every morning with a tear running down her cheek, she says, “My Daddy didn’t come home last night. I was alone in bed.”

I guide her to the table, where her breakfast awaits. She’s so quiet, as always.

I help her get dressed, and with her baby doll she sits in her favorite chair on the porch.

She sings and she laughs as she tells herself a story. Then she’s quiet and stares. There’s that tear running down her cheek. Then I ask myself: Does she remember, I wonder? Then there’s that confusion in her eyes. She closes her eyes, then she hums a song of delight. Then there’s that smile that I remember.

As the day comes to another end, I hear her say her prayers and she asks, “Please Heavenly Father, I miss my Daddy so much and I will be with him again. Until then, please help me remember his smile, his laughter and all his eyes. It’s his eyes that gave me comfort and knowing how much I love him.” She ends it with a quiet “Amen.” Then she looks up at me with that warm sweet smile. It’s time for bed. Tomorrow will be a better day.

I watch her as she drifts into a deep, sweet sleep. I kiss her forehead and say, “Good night my dear mother. May you dream of your loving husband tonight. For, one day, you will be with him again. You might not remember he has been gone for a year. But at night you’ll have those dreams of him. And that you’ll hold dear. So, yes, my Mother, tomorrow will be a better day.”

Alice Basque-Torres

Kea‘au, Hawai‘i

Dear Alice,

Yes, I remember you from Kona. I shared your story in one of my columns. Thank you for sharing your mother’s story now. You have captured and preserved a very special moment with your mother. This is what writing does. Otherwise, these moments may be forgotten in the maze of caregiving. Thank you, and continue to share your writings with us.

Frances

Dear Frances,

I’m a caregiver for my husband, who was recently diagnosed with dementia. I’m feeling very resentful. I was not in a good marriage, but I stayed for financial reasons because I had nowhere to go. I feel this resentment every day.

Sal

Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Sal,

Once we make a decision to become a caregiver for someone, even for someone whose relationship with us was not a positive one, it helps to return to our own humanity. See if you can be in the present — see your husband as a human being who needs care. When you do this, think of how you will feel to be able to say after he is gone, “I am a good human being, after all.” What more can we ask of ourselves?

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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.

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