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’m sure you will receive many responses to your last column.

My mom also died when I had left the room briefly to make a phone call, and I hadn’t realized how often that happens. It mitigates the feelings of guilt and reminds me that our loved ones are not our possessions and have their own journeys independent of us. The presence or absence of others may be irrelevant when a person’s journey is nearly ended. I’ve imagined (or questioned) what those final moments might be like in a poem, and in my imagination those moments didn’t include other people:


Is there pain or fear

when the end is near?

Have senses failed

and spirit flown?

Is mind aware

or just body there?

Can mind comprehend


In the final minutes

is there — resistance?

How will it feel

to have nothing left

but the breath?

One, then another —

three, maybe four,

then no more?


Elk Grove, Calif.

Dear Frances,

Those stories are wonderful.

I hear more stories about how a person waits for a son or daughter or some other loved one to appear before passing on, because when they slip away without you, what’s to tell? I won’t take anything away from those who were there for their loved one’s last breath . . . perhaps they did wait. But just like in your experience, when the nurse called and said I should come, I didn’t realize my mother would be gone in minutes, that this was finally the end. So I dawdled for some minutes, the stress keeping me away, then went to the bathroom to relieve what pressure I could, took another minute to converse briefly in the hall, then took a deep breath and pulled myself over a hump. Twenty minutes. She was gone. I could have (should have?) been there in ten. But did she really think of me in those last minutes, much more my father, who was at home, at least thirty minutes away, and having to drive, park and walk? Perhaps she did, but I’m not sure death is about anyone’s control over life, except for God. Life (and death) is a mystery, and mysterious. I hope it doesn’t come with the dying resisting, as when my overtired body is sometimes paralyzed at the last moment before sleep and I feel a horrifying need to fight and jerk my body awake, lest I not wake again. Rather, I hope it is simply releasing one’s spirit to God, as one releases a worry and a frown after realizing there is no need to hold on to a trifle.

I would be interested in what Reeve Lindbergh said about this in her book.

Jason Kimura

Kailua, Hawai‘i

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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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