January obits

There’s a theory that people wait until January to die. They get in one last holiday season with their family, the house is cleaned for the New Year, the sky goes boom, boom and then: Pau.

I doubt veterinarian Dr. Nicholas Palumbo, who crashed his Piper single-engine airplane into an East Oahu ridge with his son Tim, had planned to die on Sunday. What an amazing man who led an amazing life, and who left behind quite a legacy of accomplishments. He had a wide circle of family and friends and was treasured for his care for animals and people on Oahu and Lanai. 

Last week on Facebook I learned that one of our big brothers in the marching band died at 54. Harry Johnson played Tevya in the high school musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” He was larger than life and seemed to be an old soul even as a teenager. Then there’s James Delano, the founder of Lion Coffee. At 56 he died in Mumbai, India, on January 6. I met him when I was writing up a story about Starbucks coming to Hawaii when I was at Pacific Business News. His attitude then, and throughout his life was, “Bring it.” He relished challenges and lived every day as though it were his last. Too soon his last day came.

I learned today that one of the tutus I work out with in the wee hours of the morning at 24-Hour Fitness Hawaii Kai died on Sunday. Our last conversation last Thursday was about how her two grandchildren, cousins who are in school with my Sophie at Niu, would be off  this Friday for furlough and next Monday for Martin Luther King Day. She was the chief babysitter for her clan. A few months ago her white German Sheppard, Kolohe, died. Jane was devastated. Pets are just as dear as children and losing one breaks the heart. I understand Jane died of a stroke, her third one in about a year. She was a heavy smoker, yet she’d work out so diligently, and there she goes and dies.

We can be pragmatic about death, but we should also let the emotions wash over us. Feel the pain of loss, relive the tender moments, welcome the sudden jolt of a reminder of them in your heart years later. And realize how precious it is to breathe, look into someone’s eyes and connect.

I remember locking eyes with Charlotte when she was first born. This naked little baby placed on my tummy searching for her first encounter. Funny how one thing can lead you to think of another.

By lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer survivor. English Language Arts teacher, English Learners Coordinator, and Paraprofessional Tutor. Super sub teacher. Dormant triathlete. Road cyclist and Masters swimmer. Gardener. Mrs. Fixit. Random dancer. Music Curator. A teenager trapped in an aging body. Did you know 60 is the new 40? It is.


  1. Best tip I ever got was “Let death be your advisor” When I do, stuff seems to seek its own priorities.

    “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plan.” John Lennon

  2. Your beginning paragraph made me smile. My grandpa, who is almost 97 years old, told my at my Grams’ funeral in July, “Your Grams always thought of others… she died during the summer, because if she died in January like most old folks, the ground would be too hard to dig her grave!”

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