A Hawaiin Shirt

By Joseph J. Mazzella • September 10, 2022

The first time I met Kai she was sitting in my front yard petting my dog, Harley. Harley was a big black Lab and Husky mix and his bark was intimidating but Kai had turned him into a little puppy wanting only to be petted by her. She seemed to radiate a loving-kindness that rippled out to touch us all. She and her husband Sean had just moved into our neighborhood and in no time Kai had befriended everyone. She played with and encouraged the neighborhood children, she rescued a stray dog that had been wounded by a bear, she laughed and gave and shared and loved us all unconditionally.

In no time Kai and Sean had become fixtures in our neighborhood. My daughter, sons, and I visited them often. Kai always seemed to have a piece of cake ready to eat and a heart to heart talk ready to share. Kai also loved the Hawaiian culture and embraced the “Aloha Spirit”, even though she wasn’t native to Hawaii. She had been a former Hula dancer in her youth and gave me a Hawaiian shirt as a gift. Even though it was too small for my big belly I wore it often when I visited her and Sean.

Kai also encouraged my writings about life, love, spirit, and God. She didn’t have the internet so I would bring her a printed copy of each new thing I wrote. Often she asked me to read it to her while she closed her eyes and soaked in the words. I was always happy to do so.

Through all this time, though, Kai was battling Cancer. She had told me the first time I talked with her that she was terminal. That made her even more determined to live all her days here to the fullest, shining her light, seeding her love, and sharing her joy. In time her health declined, she slept more and grew weaker. I visited less often not wanting to tire her but when I did no matter how bad she felt Kai always shared her kindness and her smile.

Kai died on a cold, winter’s day. I walked through the heavy snow to her home to tell Sean how sorry I was and how much she would be missed by us all. Sean moved away soon afterwards and all of us were left a little emptier without Kai’s presence in our lives. Whenever I looked at that Hawaiian shirt, however, I would remember Kai and smile. That is why these days I only wear Hawaiian shirts be it Spring, Summer, Winter, or Fall. Wearing them makes me feel closer to Kai and the love she shared while she was here. I look forward to meeting her again one day in God’s Paradise. Maybe we can share a little “Aloha Spirit”, have a heart to heart talk and a piece of cake. And I’m sure she will smile seeing my Hawaiian shirt.

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