Turning 69 years old on Thursday, January 19th was an exhilarating day for me and I thank all who helped make it so.
I often tell people “I’m caught in a positive feedback loop, and you are part of it.” Thursday was one of those incredibly positive days.
It started with early morning texts from my children and a heartwarming video message from my grandchildren.
A friend then set the stage further, sending me this note:
“Youthfulness is not determined by age. It is determined by one’s life force. One who possesses hope is forever young. One who continually advances is forever beautiful. May all your dreams and wishes come true for life”
The rest of my Thursday only got better. Uplifting message after uplifting message, some warmed my soul, others made me laugh out loud, and still others made me cry in a good way – all provided fuel to my fire to do more and be better.
You can be sure my mother who will be 91 this year read every single one of them. She in turn wrote and posted a thoughtful birthday missive to her son as well.
Claudette and I ended the day at my very most favorite spot, the Lava Lava Beach Club in Kapaʻa. Sitting near the ocean, watching the waves as the sun slowly set, and listening to the sweet voice of friend and long time Kauaʻi musician Darryl Gonsalves.
The following morning my life was shaken by a personal confrontation with the other realities of getting old.
I set out early on Friday determined to visit two dear friends who I had not seen in years. I’d been told that both were in ill health and in long-term care facilities – one in Waimea and the other at Wilcox.
Both I considered family, both had helped me plenty over the years, and both were just incredible human beings.
I stopped at Wilcox first, went up to the third floor, signed in, and was escorted by a nurse to my friend’s room. Another visitor was there sitting quietly by the bed, I said hello and greeted my old friend who was stretched out and seemingly watching television.
He turned his head slightly toward me. I said hello a bit more loudly again, repeated my name, and even sang a short tune we had shared in years gone by. There may or may not have been a twinge or twinkle of recognition, but if it was there it faded quickly. I hesitated for a moment, told him clearly that I loved him, asked the other visitor to give my love to the family, and then slipped quietly out of the room.
It was a long sad drive to Waimea.
The initial routine there was similar. I signed in, went through the COVID screening process, and was greeted by a nurse who asked who I was visiting. When I spoke my friend’s name, the nurse looked up and said “she’s not here”. For a moment, I was confused and said, did she go home? Did she move to another facility? The nurse shook her head slowly and called over another nurse who explained to me very gently that my friend had passed away a month earlier.
I barely remember my drive back home. I texted Claudette, that “I’d waited too long.” She replied with love telling me “Don’t beat yourself up, you tried.”
Adding to this jumble of emotion, my friend and former colleague Senator Ron Menor who was just 67, passed away the Monday preceding my birthday.
Every day it seems another familiar name passes.
My mother, a strong Christian woman is 90 and while moving a little slow, walks unassisted, and still cooks her favorite desserts and helps around the house. My natural father, a career navy man, died at the early age of 57 – essentially from a diet of cigarettes, alcohol, and black coffee.
I’m 69 years old. My health is generally good and I like to think I’m a long way from moving on. There are far too many things I still want to do with my life.
This week definitely has shaken me.
The outpouring of support and love offered by so many on Thursday lit my fire and reengaged my commitment – to both family and work.
The wake-up call that came on Friday was both saddening and enlightening.
I am reminded that life is a precious gift that will ultimately end – so we must use our time here wisely and with purpose. I’m also reminded that we must not neglect our friends and family, and we must carve out some of that valuable time remaining for them. Please, tell your family and friends how much you love and appreciate them today, don’t wait for another day that might not come.
Mahalo to all of you for being part of my journey.
Sincerely and forever young 😉
Just a man, trying his best to do his best.
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Another favorite: Old Man by Neil Young
“Old man take a look at your life, I’m a lot like you were.”
Further closing notes:
My life it seems is one of abundance, and for that I am deeply grateful. I have too many stories to tell, too many fond memories to reflect on, too many goals yet to be achieved and tall mountains still to be scaled. As I’ve written in the past, I’m a lucky man. Surrounded by family and friends, doing meaningful work daily on tasks that I love, and living in the most beautiful place on the planet.
Mine is not a life free of stress or hardship, there are no shortage of those stories as well. But my default is to always push on, to know the sun is always going to come up the next day, and to follow my naʻau, my gut and instincts – whenever those tough times present themselves.