Story by Joseph J. Mazzella (Author)
The first time I saw Kai she was sitting in my front yard, hugging my dog, Harley. She and her husband Sean had just moved into a tiny home down the hill from us. I think she was drawn to Harley’s friendly personality just as he was drawn to hers. From the second I talked to her I knew Kai would be a cherished friend. Her smile and good cheer made me feel better just being around her. Her high voice was always full of happiness. Before I knew it she was inviting me and my children into her house for homemade cake.
It didn’t take long before Kai was beloved by everyone in our neighborhood. Children and adults alike visited her home often. Although she already had four cats she adopted a stray beagle that had been hurt by a bear and nursed it back to health. When we visited her she would kindly listen to all of our troubles and then say something so wise and uplifting that we would leave her home with our mouths smiling and our hearts singing. Sometimes I would read her my stories while one of her cats would nap on my lap and she would always encourage me to keep writing and sharing with the world.
Kai wasn’t Hawaiian but loved the Hawaiian culture and spirit of family it cherished. She was even a hula dancer in her younger days. She gave me a Hawaiian shirt that I loved so much that soon I bought several others to go with it and today they are the only kind of shirt I wear. Each time I see them hanging in my closet I think of her.
Kai was a true giver. She didn’t have much to share materially but what she gave to others spiritually was truly priceless. She gave everything she could, to everyone she could, every chance she could. I think all of Heaven must have been smiling as they watched her live a life of such unconditional love.
All of this time, though, Kai was slowly dying from a terrible combination of Cancer and C.O.P.D. She had told me the first time we talked that she was terminal. Yet, she lived each day with such vitality that I often forgot just how ill she was. In time her health did wane and she spent more and more time resting and sleeping. I still visited her but only on her few “good” days. She died on a cold, Winter’s day with heavy snow falling down like teardrops from Heaven.
In spite of the short time we had together I learned so much from Kai about how to truly live all the days we are given here. Lessons on kindness, generosity, hope, and good cheer seemed to flow freely from her daily life. I think most of all she taught me that joy like love is quite contagious and that I should always strive to be a carrier of them both. May the same be said for all of us. Thanks Kai.