Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

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.

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

Dear Frances,

Attached is something I wrote about four years ago, before Mom died and after I’d been coming to your support group for about a year. I never brought it to one of our meetings — couldn’t decide if it was poetry or prose. But I want you to have it.


If I could

find light for Mom and myself in dementia’s

live with the uncertainty of what’s coming next,

know peace in the midst of caregiving stress,

overcome my fear and anxiety for her,

give up my need that she know who I am,

remember it’s my turn to give and hers to receive,

accept, affirm, dignify and love the person she is today

without looking for the mom she used to be,

create and savor little moments of human

follow the Golden Rule in everything I say or do,

advocate for Mom directly and constructively,

understand that doing my best is enough,

take care of myself while caring for Mom,

grieve without drowning in tears,

believe that love is more powerful than loss,

write down all that troubles me,

find a way to see it differently,

transform it into poetry . . .

If, if, if . . .

But I can’t, not alone, not without Frances to show me how.

Frances: glamorous even in her bad-hair-day beret,

petit as bonsai, elegant as ikebana, more alive than iris in May,

compassionate caregiver, poet, sensei, friend and now a painter

who splashes the canvas of my life with the bright colors

of hope, laughter and the written word;

how can I ever thank her enough?


Linda Donahue

Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Linda,

You have over-thanked me with this poem. Thank you for all the “ifs” that we caregivers live with day after day. When they are so eloquently presented, they turn our hour-by-hour life as caregivers into poetry. Thank you for taking us inward into our own.


Readers . . . By now, you’ve probably concluded that I’m a great eavesdropper, or to put it another way, a nosey listener. I heard this story from dental hygienist Teresa Thomas while she was cleaning my teeth.

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