Distant Matters and Distance Matters: In Memoriam

I meant to get this blog out so much earlier, in memory of two people who I wish I had the chance to know better, but never will. The time, however, is long past for regrets. There never is a time for regret. Only for memory, respect, and celebration.

—–

The world has never been smaller. We’re so used to living with all this technology that instantaneous communication is just a fact and way of life. Our access to places on the globe has never been more vast. With daily access to WiFi and my data plan on my phone, I can check up on my friends and family in Europe, Asia, the US, and of course the place that was our address for a very long time, Hawaii — all within a few minutes. It’s crazy. I was Google+(ing) a friend a few weeks ago (me in Vallendar and he in Hawaii) and we could still talk just as we did last semester. Reception was perfect, so  everything was in real time. We both thought it was pretty amazing how the thousands of miles were no obstacle at all. It would have made no difference if I had called him from two doors down or (in this case) 7,400 miles. 

But the day finally came when I could feel the impact of physical distance, even in this age. I checked my email in class, read something odd, investigated on social media, and then all the news started pouring in. I was too late. Two people from completely different parts of my life…gone on the same day.

School never seemed so trivial.

And it’s been so long since I felt so far away and helpless.

In Memory of My Uncle

I met one of my uncles, Raymond, some years ago. One of the most adorable old men you ever will or did see. He was a war veteran, so he’s seen his fair share of action. He had a wife, my aunt, who was much younger than him. Here’s one of my favorite stories of him – it tells a lot about his personality and free will:

I was with my parents and Uncle Raymond and my aunt at his favorite place for Happy Hour. Years ago. Every single member of the staff (and even some of the patrons) knew him and treated him like family. By the time I finished my virgin lava flow, he already had five drinks (two of which were whiskey and brandy). By Jove, my uncle could drink.

And he was already 90 years…young. Was still cracking jokes and telling stories and whatnot. My aunt, who felt she was missing out on the show I suppose, kept telling him to stop drinking so much and quit embarrassing himself. And this is what he said, and wouldn’t stop saying:

“You know, I’ve had so many doctors in the past, and they all said that I was as healthy as an ox, and would continue to be if I could just stop drinking.”

“So, Uncle, did you ever try stopping?” I asked.

“Oh no, never. Thing is, every one of those doctors have already met the Maker, and I’m still here!”

I have never seen him stop grinning.

My uncle passed away peacefully and quietly in his own bed at home. He always refused trips to the hospital, even when he would fall and get into some trouble in his old age. I like to think he woke up in the middle of the night, heard a voice, understood the sign, and fell back asleep into the Holy Spirit’s arms knowing it was finally his time.

In Memory of My Friend

This one is a lot harder to start, write, and finish.

In July 2012, I met this sweet, quiet girl named Shae from Pearl City for the first time. Eager, bright-eyed freshmen straight out of high school, we were about to have an amazing buffet dinner at the Willows Restaurant in Honolulu in celebration of our good fortune to be part of the 20 freshmen to receive a full-ride to the state’s flagship campus. You can tell she had potential and the brains, but also the heart and humility to make you love her for who she is.

When we got our dorm assignments, my roommate and I were neighbors to her and her roommate. I would see her in passing from time to time, but since we all had different schedules, I did not notice anything at first when I didn’t see her for weeks.

Until I realized she had left school.

Shae had been battling her sickness for a while, and I was shocked. We had no idea. My roommate and I would check up on her Facebook, just to see if she or her family would post updates on how she was doing. Despite all the complications, she would still sound so optimistic. Not “sound,” no, she was and has always been optimistic. She was not only bright of mind, but also of spirit.

Before I left Hawaii, I’ve heard of developments that she was close to finding a donor, and even though she was still in and out of the hospital, it seemed she was staying more at home and would continue school soon, if not already with the new semester. She could still graduate with us; I just knew it.

She had to.

—–

I’m sorry I can’t be home in Hawaii to pay my last respects. I’m grateful for every smile and good word I said to my uncle and Shae during my brief time with them. I’m happy that my last memory of both of them was their smile.

So, 7400 miles, a breath, and a heartbeat away, I want to thank you both for inspiring me to realize that joy and peace come with acceptance, thanksgiving, and a healthy dose of laughter and humor.

Till we all meet again.

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