wanted to go to Hawaii just one more time. At 93 when he bought
the tickets he was raring to go. But there just wasn't time. So
these poems, written on Maui after dad had passed on, are
dedicated to him.)
Facing west the setting sun, bright and shining in my eyes
As I wait for the Maui sunset.
What is it supposed to be? Why is it so special?
It's just the sun going down over Molokai
Chasing away the heavy dark clouds that look like rain.
But how does the sun, the dark clouds and the island shadow
Make a sunset?
And then it happens, an hour of changing light,
Flaming orange and red and streaked with brilliant yellow
As though the clouds of heavy blue just couldn't resist the sun
And turned to flame.
Now it's dark again along the rocky shore.
The lights gone out across the channel.
And on the Maui side just the tiki torches to light the rocks
And accent the white foam of the breaking waves.
The heavy clouds are dark again against that other island.
Just the sound of the waves endlessly breaking on the shore
To lull me to sleep and dreams of another Maui sunset.
SITTING AT KIMO'S
Parasailing, like my heart
High, aloft and free,
Reveling in contented bliss
Watching the rolling breakers
Rolling in to Kimo's.
Lunch on the terrace
Looking at the channel between me and Molokai.
Wondering, is it ok?
To feel this good, this well, this blissful.
Reassuring Hawaiian music
Talking with the trades.
Clean sounds, simple melody
Quieting, superbly calming.
Small boats, anchored
But still moving softly on the sea.
Faint taste of lemon on the sliced tomato.
Eating and savoring every mouthful.
Wondering where the taste goes
When we savor nothing
And hardly feel it going down.
But this is bliss, knowing the taste of it
More than just living.
This is lunch, this is Maui, this is Kimo's.
WHEN IT'S TIME TO GO
It's 6:35 am -- just 24 hours since Dad died and I am home.
Yesterday when Celia and Lana woke me up at 7 to tell me he was
gone the morning was hot, not cool like today. I remembered the
night before when I was sitting with him "The Lord will take him
when it's time for him to go" the nurse had said as I looked at
her for some indication of what I should do. I wanted to stay,
but I was so tired. My eyes kept closing and I was afraid each
time I opened them that he would be no longer breathing, that his
ancient form would be still, this time forever.
The nurses changed shift at 10:30. She was the night nurse and,
of course, she knew that we were waiting. "My name's Avon Webb"
she said. "That's my name too," I responded. "Webb, that is," I
"My father died when he was 65," she murmured, "and mother just
died last year."
I was grateful for the conversation. I had been alone with him
for about an hour and the feeling of helplessness was starting to
surface again. We were the last of a parade of family sitters,
brothers and sisters who had done the vigil for a week night
after night. But last night it was three of us from the South
who had sat quietly, Jose to the left of me in a high backed
rolling chair, never saying a word, but remembering, no doubt,
the year he had spent caring for him, cleaning, dressing, walking
him and doing all the little things of life that are required
just to make the day begin and end. And Cousin Wynne to my
right, weeping now and then, and occasionally crossing the room
to the bedside to touch his forehead or his hand as though test-
ing for temperature. Once after the nurse had checked his vital
signs she asked, "Does he have a fever?" The nurse said without
emotion, "100.4," and left.
Dolores, the charge nurse, had tried to be of comfort. "He's
going," she had said.
"How can he live with blood pressure 84 over 46," I had asked.
"Pure will power," she responded and then as an afterthought,
"I'm off at 10:30, I hope he doesn't go on my shift."
I wasn't startled or bothered by the comment. It was so offhand,
totally without emotion, simply a statement of a tired person.
But I felt differently. As the hours passed, I was ready. Then
the two aides who accompanied the charge nurse on her earlier
rounds had come again and as Dolores had instructed, taken the
vital signs and shifted the unmoving form. "Every hour and a
half now," she had said. I watched their faces for a sign as
they did their work, they told me nothing. it was only their
actions that spoke, gentle movements. The young large, blond
woman took his inert hand and rubbed it slowly, "It's going to be
all right," she said quietly to the silent man.
It was almost four months to the day, less a week, March 19. It
is strange how a date becomes etched in your mind. I discovered
him asleep when I arrived from LA, looked in, said "hello" and
when he didn't awaken slipped silently from the room to let him
sleep. I reported back to mother, "He's sleeping so soundly I
couldn't wake him. I'll tell him I'm here later when he wakes
up." And that was almost four months ago. During that time I
thought just once that he knew I was there, but it is possible he
still doesn't know even though since then I have told him many
times that I was there. Later over the months whenever I was in
town I also tried to say goodbye, but it was hard because there
was never any acknowledgement of my presence. But I didn't stop
rubbing his back and talking and trying.
At nine o'clock I called George. "We are at the hospital," I
told him. "It looks like a few hours more."
"Shall I come down?" he asked.
"I don't know, George. It could be hours or days, but I don't
think it will be long, his breathing is so shallow and now he
pauses every so often before the next breath. The nurse says one
of these times the pause will just go on and that will be the
"I was there all night last night", George said. "Do you think
you'll stay all night?"
"I don't think so," I answered. At 10:30 I suggested Jose take
Wynne home and come back for me.
I sat there for a long time, alone, just watching the erratic
breathing and listening to the slight rattling in his chest. I
took the cue from the gentle nurses who had taken his hand as
they murmured quietly to the unmoving man, and got up and walked
to his side. I took his hand and rubbed. The hand was cold and
I followed up the arm to the shoulder where finally the cold
ceased and it became warm again. And I talked. "It's all right,
Dad." I must have said it thirty times, but in my heart I was
saying, "It's time to go, take him, Lord. He's ready."
At 11:30 I was in the chair again and my eyes kept closing. I
can't do any more here I thought. I got up and walked out in the
hall, looking up and down for a nurse. Avon was with another
patient. I saw her from the doorway and waited. When she came
out I said, "I think I'm going home. I can't stay awake any
longer." And I wanted inside me to tell her I wanted it to end
for his sake, but I couldn't say that. But she read the thought
and she looked at me in that quiet hallway and said simply in a
country way, "You go on home, when the Lord is ready, he'll come
and take him."