Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Say Goodbye Without Regret

On the day they buried my Nana I sat on an ocean view balcony six stories above the beach on Maui’s west side. The birds chattered like a sanctuary and the waves lapped the coast with the rush and throb of constant motion. 

A gigantic palm tree stretched higher than my perch and shimmied in the ocean breeze. Its fronds rustled like feather wind chimes. 

Ocean View Balcony, Maui, KDW May 2013
It’s not exactly foreign in Maui. It is America displaced: English language signage and inflated prices on canned soda framed by hibiscus and coconuts and scented like sunscreen. Everyone drowsy with vacation and paradise and syrupy Mai Tais.

Maui isn’t home. Palm trees are not Palmettos and pineapples don’t really go with everything. It is what you expect, which is comforting.

Maui is exactly what you expect.

The last time I was this far away was 2007. I was in Manila where the tidy western office parks were occasionally swept by a wretched stench off the river and everything instantly turned thick and dirty.

Nana could have died then but she didn’t. There were still things to do.

I came home, had Hollie, and visited Nana every month from the time Hollie was six months old until last summer.

Last summer we moved to Columbia and I began visiting every week. Sometimes with Hollie but more often without, I drove I-20 East without blinking and sat on the green couch with the pineapple embroidered pillow.

I listened to Nana. I talked to her. I looked at her. Breathed with her. I knew I would never regret the time I spent, the time I gave. I knew, everyone knew, it wouldn’t be long. Yet in every scenario I imagined I never considered I wouldn’t be there. Never.

I don’t think I needed another chance to say goodbye and I’m not selfish enough to think I needed to be there.

But close is all I ever wanted to be.

When we were children visiting Florence I would imagine moving there, buying a very big house, seeing Nana every day. When I went to Clemson it was so I could be near her. When I get so frustrated with my cousins who live nearby it’s because I think if I lived there I would visit every day.

I’ve never been close enough.
At the luau, KDW May 2013

I’m not the inner circle of Nana’s life. Her inner circle was Papa and then her children and then her grandchildren. I know I belong on the third rim.

She was on my third rim, too. After Charlie and Hollie, then my sisters and parents, then Florence. I didn’t see her every day or speak to her or even really think about her.

But she’s part of me, part of who I am. I think I was part of her, too. I am so blessed to have had this time with her. I am so blessed to have been able to tell her how much I loved her. To tell her goodbye. To mourn with her before I was without her.

I hope I will reflect Nana’s love, her gentleness, her forgiveness, her selflessness, her open-heartedness. I hope Hollie will remember her. I hope others will see her in me.

I know Maui isn’t the end of the earth and I know missing the funeral isn’t the end of the world. Not even close. I know all living things eventually die. 

Even when we’re warned, we can still be dazed.

We can still gaze out over the Pacific Ocean, toward Lana’i, toward the setting sun. We can still drive up Haleakala and snorkel at Molokini, and sit below gyrating hula dancers at luau or on an airline for nine hours. We can stand on the shore of a volcanic island or the highest tee box of the Ka’anapali golf course.

We can do all the things we have left to do and still pause and think, “She would have loved this.”

We can carry Nana to Maui with us. We can think one more goodbye might have helped. 

Have you ever had to say goodbye from thousands of miles away?


  1. I have read this over and over since you posted it and I am just now able to comment because my darling daughter you have captured the essence of your Nana and she is smiling down on you. Your visits meant the world to her and to your PaPa. Your love and commitment to your family is such a blessing to all of us. Your Nana was so proud of you and loved you with her whole heart. Thank you for this tribute to her and rest assured she is telling everyone about her granddaughter, the writer! You are so much like her in so many ways.

    1. Thanks, mom. I have not been able to stop writing. It's not all about her but I feel like a lot of it is from her.

  2. Kasie,

    I couldn't be prouder to call you a daughter of my heart. I am so glad that you and your Nana had all the time that you did to say goodbye without regret ... as that is one of the things that I was able to do with my dad, and it softened the blow to the heart, in just the tiniest bit.

    Hope to see you in a few weeks, but in the meantime, know that I love you and keep you and your family in my heart and prayers during this difficult time of loss.


    1. Thank you, Sheila.

      We were blessed with time, that's true, but I would have given it back to not have watched her suffer so slowly. It was a hard couple of years.

      This was another chance to consider whether I'd made right decisions. As far as Nana was concerned, I believe I did.


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