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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

PEARL'S ASHES #1 and #2

Chapter 1: The Story of Pearl


Pearl Yukie Nakamichi was born in Hilo, Hawaii.  Mauna Kea (right, meaning White Mountain) was special to her, for she could see the top every morning she awoke.  During the winter months, snow.  She graduated from Hilo High School, then went on to St. Francis Nursing School in Honolulu.

She was working as a Registered Nurse at the Kau Hospital in Pahala on the Big Island and I was a sugar engineer when I met her in 1962.  We got married a little more than three months later.  Here, our first Christmas.  We formed an ideal partnership.  

We spent five years on various plantations in the sugar industry and finally left our final, the southernmost community of the USA, Naalehu, for me to return to graduate school.  Here, Hutchinson Sugar Company Manager Bill Baldwin wishing us well at our farewell party.  

We drove across country in a Barracuda and saw this lightning bolt in Idaho.  We spent three and a half years at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, experiencing Mardi Gras, Pete Maravich, Tiger Football, Breakfast at Brennan's, crawfish boils, jambalaya and hurricanes (the drink, not the storm) and a whole bunch of festivals.  Below, a photo in the bayou:  

She later went on to work for U.S. Senators Spark Matsunaga and Daniel Akaka, but more important than anything else, she took good care of me.  Here we are at our Craigside penthouse during sunset.  Perhaps more than anything else, we enjoyed having dinner together on our lanai roof at sunset.

In 1982, soon after we had returned to Hawaii for her to serve as office manager for Sparky's senate re-election campaign, she learned she had breast cancer.  While she was recuperating, I gave her a sunburst flower.  No leaves, just one flower.  She brought it home and one plant multiplied, maybe to more than 50 over time.  She gave them away to friends.  I still have half a dozen with me at 15 Craigside, plus a few more which I gave to a neighbor on my floor for taking care of these plants in my absence.

After nearly 47 years of marriage, Pearl passed away in 2009.  She spent the final month of her life mostly in Kuakini Hospital intensive care.  I wrote an article for The Huffington Post the morning I returned from this ordeal entitled Gratitude...Not Grief.  The day before her death, I was reading something by Thornton Wilder.

I took to heart the saying, for we only had a celebration of her life and no funeral.  I thus thought I would further drop her ashes off at sites she wished to visit, but did not, mostly because I really don't like high elevations, Africa and South America.  In most ways, thus, this was a conscience assuaging repentence.  I added nostalgic locations and places she would have truly enjoyed.

10 August 2009 was a day I won't forget.  I awoke early to catch the sunrise at Mauna Kea.  However, it was cloudy, and instead of a picturesque view of the mountain, I saw a rainbow:


I had spent the previous day scurrying around Hilo, purchasing items I needed to spread her ashes, which I placed in a dozen or so small plastic containers with covers, and 50 gel caps, the type used for powdered medicines.  Coincidentally, I noticed that the color of her ashes was nearly identical to my high blood pressure pill.    I thought this alikeness could someday help me sneak the ashes through countries like India.

Remembering that Pearl regularly visited Rainbow Falls, I thought I'd start my day there by having a personal ceremony.  Here is a photo of  Pearl's Ash #1 (PA#1), the first location:


We had decided to have Pearl's ceremony on Mauna Kea, for the reasons cited above.  Family and friends first met at the home where she grew up, and we formed a caravan to the site.  

A few thousand feet from the base of Mauna Kea we had ceremony PA#2 with her family.  We started with some rose petals, then followed with each tossing her ashes from those containers.


I then went on to stay the night at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel along the Kohala Coast for a reason I'll explain in Chapter 2.  One decision I made was that in the years to come, in the process of fulfilling this obligation, I would expend the money she left in a manner that maximized both commitment and pleasure.  It was like she would be there with me during these periods.

Thus, I generally traveled first class, stayed at luxurious hotels and ate at Michelin 3-Star and Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants (they actually have a list of 100, which about equals the number of 3-Star numbers, and, of course, many were in both).  While on the one hand Pearl was generally frugal, our best moments were spent when we infrequently splurged to some excess.

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