Joyce is the choice

I was shocked on that first day of retreat when one of our Sacred Hearts Brothers tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You know, Joyce passed away.” I had chatted with Joyce at the Kalaupapa airport just a couple of days prior to this as she awaited the plane which would take her to Topside Molokai. Now she had taken another flight on angels’ wings to her Heavenly home. It is ironic that I had hoped to have her share her story with me for this article. She was my choice for this month and now she was the Lord’s choice to be summoned to the Pearly Gates.

Of course Joyce Kainoa’s story would not fit in a news brief. I had learned this one day shortly after arriving in Kalaupapa in the summer of 2012. She was busy with her volunteer work at Hale Malama (our museum to be) but she took time not only to greet me but to chat with me. Let me make it clear that she was doing most of the chatting. She chuckled when she said that I didn’t look much like a priest. Of course this was understandable since I was attired in my tan shorts, aloha shirt, sandals and topped off by my wide brimmed straw hat (I use this to protect whatever brains I have left). She evidently got a kick out of my attire and I most certainly got a real kick out of listening to her. Eventually I got a big hug of welcome from her, which almost took my breath away.

Born in Maui, Joyce spent time in beautiful Halawa Valley in the extreme northeast section of Molokai. It was in this same valley of lush taro fields that Father Damien had built St. Ann’s Church. Joyce had no knowledge of this church since it had long fallen into disuse. The homes and rich taro fields of Halawa Valley were destroyed by the tsunami of 1946 and by subsequent flash flooding in the 1960s. However, we have the altar from this church, built by Damien’s own hands, at St. Philomena Church in Kalawao.

It is interesting to note that Joyce took up residence and raised her family in the vicinity of another valley where Damien had built a church, St. Anthony. Pelekunu Valley opens onto the north side of Molokai not far from the original Hansen’s disease settlement in Kalawao. Joyce said that the hike from her valley to the south side of Molokai would have been a daunting one. So in recent years Joyce came to us by way of helicopter or occasionally by family boat.

As Joyce lived part of her time with her son, Lane, here in Kalaupapa, it was a joy to have her around. Though she had some medical ailments, she was still full of vim and vigor. She would speak her mind with humor and in an uplifting fashion. I will miss her. We will all miss her. She is my choice for November. She is also the Lord’s choice. A hui hou, Joyce. May you live on in eternal peace with the Lord.

Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.

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