It was 4:30 a.m. as I stepped out onto the back porch and looked skyward. There it was, clearly visible to the naked eye and moving rapidly in my direction from the western sky, the International Space Station. Its sight took me back to that night in my freshman year in St. Joseph’s secondary school when we, in our pajamas, stuck our heads out the dormitory windows in order to catch a glimpse of the Russian Sputnik as it passed by overhead. Now, as the space station swiftly moved past my range of vision, Bailey and Titus, my longest serving mouseketeers, brought me back to earth as they showed up at my feet. I fed them their breakfast and returned to my cozy bed. The five younger felines of my seven would have to wait on the front porch until that jarring alarm clock brought me back to earth again at 5 a.m.
Life in Kalaupapa is pretty simple. There is very little star gazing, though the sky itself often offers spectacular views on a cloudless full moon night. Residents put in their full day of work, then retire for the evening. It is quiet by sundown except the occasional barking of a dog and the frequent barking of the Axis deer who venture into close proximity of the homes and leave their calling cards on the front lawns. No longer do we have the bar, so we do not have to worry about after-hour fist fights — not that that was ever an issue here!
Like all communities, we miss the community get-togethers we enjoyed prior to the advent of Covid. Our sole get-togethers have been our monthly community meetings, which have now moved indoor from the beloved banyan tree. This month’s meeting highlighted the need to be prepared for any natural disaster that might happen, such as a tsunami, hurricane or devastating fire. Ken, our man from Michigan, on request from yours truly, outlined again the guidelines for visitors to Kalaupapa. These should be family or friends of the patients and the workers.
We thank Jessica Sanchez for negotiating a deal with the current owners of Love’s Bakery for our weekly allotment of bread. While Jesus did say, “Not on bread alone does man live,” most everybody would like to be able to make a sandwich, be that peanut butter and jelly or tuna fish. We are a down to earth community and so bread for us is like manna from heaven.
Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.