Dear Frances – Common Sense + Flexibility = Humanity

Sunday, February 11, 2018 - 14:13
Frances H. Kakugawa

Book cover for "Dangerous Woman, Poetry for the Ageless" by Frances H. Kakugawa

Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you.
  — Frances H. Kakugawa

Dear Frances,

My 92-year-old mom didn’t want anything for Christmas, so I decided to give her your book on Kapoho — it was the perfect gift!

My mom really enjoyed reading your book — she read it in three days. She told me she found your stories very interesting because she could relate to them, as they reminded her of [her] childhood days. She is now reading Atul Gawande’s book, “Being Mortal.” I think she will relate to that book, as well. So far, she told me she also finds it very interesting. I hope it doesn’t depress her.

I read the book and it made me realize that Mom is living Dr. Gawande’s book.



Dear Rowena,

Your mom is an inspiration to all of us. I hope “Being Mortal” will do for her what it did for me. I’m guessing that her thoughts and feelings are expressed in the book. What a good feeling it is to know that one is not alone. It’s a one-to-one support group for her. Since you have already read the book, you can use parts of it in conversations between the two of you. For example, what kind of doctor does she have — paternalistic, informative or interpretive? I can almost hear your conversation, analyzing her doctors. It’s a healthy kind of book that makes end-of-life issues so normal and noninvasive, allowing us to be proactive in seeking out the best care for our loved ones and ourselves.

Thank you, Rowena, for sharing your mother with us and for letting me know that some of my book reviews are helpful. Consider this for future light reading for your mom: There are some very good books written for young adults and children. I’m thinking of the children’s book, “Charlotte’s Web,” as a starter, or books by Roald Dahl. If you donate books to the libraries of nursing facilities, consider donating books about children and young adults, because they are still delightful and enjoyable. Some adult books with complicated plots and numerous characters may be difficult. And don’t forget poetry books. I still enjoy reading poems from my childhood: Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud . . .” or Rossetti’s “. . . When I am dead, my dearest, sing no sad songs for me . . .” Don’t forget to include Shel Silverstein’s poetry, as well.


Dear Frances,

The treasure of your brother’s signature in the yearbook from Pähoa that will go to your niece is so touching. Amazing karma. Thank you for Rowena’s story.



Dear Linda,

Thank you for your email. I wish more readers would respond. Many of us may feel that our experiences aren’t significant, but they are, and can give hope and even a ray of sunlight to others.


To read the rest of Frances’ responses and story on humanity, please subscribe to The Herald!

Frances will also be in Hawaii soon! Stop by and say “Hello”

Saturday, Feb. 24, 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Church of the Holy Nativity Main Sanctuary (5286 Kalanianaole Hwy., park across in the church parking lot): Keynote Address: “Dignity, Joy and Compassion in Giving Care.” Free, although RSVP requested. Please call Akira at (808) 373-2131, Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., to RSVP.

• Sunday, Feb. 25, 1 p.m.: Barnes & Noble, Ala Moana Center: Poetry reading and book signing.

Saturday, March 3, 1 p.m.: Basically Books (1672 Kamehameha Ave. in Hilo): Poetry reading and book signing.

Frances Kakugawa was her mother’s primary caregiver during her five-year journey with Alzheimer’s disease. A native of Kapoho on Hawai‘i island, she now lives in Sacramento. Frances has melded her professional training as a writer and educator and her personal caregiving experiences to write several books on caring for people with memory-related illnesses. She is a sought-after speaker, both in Hawai‘i and on the Mainland, sharing strategies for caregiving, as well as coping with the stresses of caregiving.


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