Posted in Family

The Secret to Life…

There are some phone calls in life that a person wishes never to have to make. Three months ago I had to make several of those calls on a Sunday morning: breaking the news to Keoni’s children and his parents that he had just shot himself. strength quote, you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have

And “breaking” is precisely the word for this. Utterly in shock myself at my sudden and unexpected widowhood, I heard hearts break with every one of those calls—the daughter’s screams, the mother’s anger…  And I felt at the time as if I were the instrument of all that breakage. As my own shock wore off a little, my thinking shifted: yes, I’d had the heavy task of imparting news, but I wasn’t the one who’d made the choice that created that wake of heartache.

There’s no way around it: the sound of that single shot, fired inches from my face, signaled the abrupt alteration of every aspect of my life. It was literally the starting-gun to an entire new (unasked-for) chapter of Life, with an entirely alien new set of labels… Widow. Single mom. Unemployed. I had to close our restaurant at his death, and I was suddenly out a living as well as a spouse.

For now I won’t rehash the three months of grieving—and ongoing healing—except to say that it feels like it’s been a lot longer than three months. It seems like I’ve lived three years since that Sunday morning, and my grief counselor (knowing I have a biology degree) even explained the brain-physiology behind my apparent mental time-warp. I shared with her at one point how messed up my sense of time was; as an example, I’d called my doctor’s office in those first few weeks for an adjustment to my antidepressants, and then found myself wondering later why I hadn’t yet heard from the pharmacy in the week or so since I’d made the request. It took some focused thought to realize that it was only 3pm on the same day I’d called the doctor—but it honestly felt like a week. That severe “time distortion” continued for a good month and a half—so I felt as if nearly a year had passed already. strength shows not only in the ability to persist, but the ability to start over

My grief counselor also commented that I could be the “poster child” for having the tools already in place to heal from trauma. With a lot of prayer and unfailing support from friends & family, along with the social network and tools-for-living found in Alcoholics Anonymous, healing has been happening.

I won’t lie: I know now more than ever that it’s messy being human! I was so relieved to find laughter again in a day, but felt guilty at the same time. All too often, missing-him took the form of being angry at him. In packing for the move to a new home, I came across what seemed like a million mementos from the five years of our marriage, and I could never predict whether any one of those memories would make me smile, or rage, or crumple up crying.

I will also say, though, that I have been determined, even from that first week, that I AM NOT DONE LIVING.

(I hope that the other people who loved and miss him will not take it amiss that I prefer today to talk about living—and finding joy—rather than dwelling on grief or bereavement. The grieving process is by no means done, but “Grieving Widow” just isn’t a role I feel meant to wallow in—and I don’t intend disrespect to anyone by making the conscious decision to focus on Living rather than on Loss.) when you are down to nothing God is up to something

Those of you who have been reading here over the years have heard me say (repeatedly!) that God’s plans (especially in times of crisis) are better than anything I could come up with—and there’s a reason why “God’sHumor” is a good-sized tag in that sidebar to the left… Chief among the things I wouldn’t have thought to plan for myself at this point would have been meeting someone new. No, let me say it straight: coming to love someone new.

Wouldn’t have been my plan, but I’m at least wise enough not to turn away from the Blessings God puts in my path…  I met Dustin in A.A. shortly after Keoni’s death—he’s Sober and Spiritual, fun and feisty, intense and energetic, and (no question, the seal on the deal!) my kids took to him instantly.

poker, hiking, swordplay, & Christmas decorating...
poker, hiking, swordplay, & Christmas decorating…

Our first “date” outside of time spent at our A.A. home group was a demanding hike up Boise’s Table Rock plateau with my son Christian, followed in short order by stringing Christmas lights and putting up a tree (things I hadn’t done for seven years—and now I know the kids had missed it), family poker games, home magic shows, trampoline basketball, hiking and playing games of “Capture the Flag” in the Boise Foothills…

We were having dinner at the kids’ favorite cafe recently and I noticed the older couple at the next table watching us closely. When they finished their meal, the wife came over to us to say (actually with tears in her eyes) that we were sitting at what had been their family’s regular table, and it was a joy to see kids and parents actually talking and laughing together. “You have a beautiful family,” she told us as she left. It was that same evening that Elena Grace (who usually takes forever to warm up to people) chirped brightly from the back seat: “Mommy, you should marry Dusty!”

a hike in the snow
a hike in the snow

Even when the kids aren’t around, I’m enjoying our playful spontaneity… Just before Christmas we spent an evening at a local entertainment place (“scouting” before bringing the kids… yeah, that’s our story!) playing laser tag and racing go-karts. A few nights before that we sat on top of Table Rock to watch the sunset and moonrise. We play poker (always with something significant at stake; my new short haircut is the result of one of those games!), spend evenings singing country songs together, read aloud to each other, work out together… We laid down the “ground rules” right off the bat that Parenting & Sobriety absolutely come first in the relationship—and we’re beginning every day with coffee & prayer & A.A. reflections, and hitting an A.A. meeting together every day.

And yes—Living from the Heart, I’ve already followed my daughter’s directions.

Quietly, in the back yard with just the kids and an ordained friend to officiate (after Dustin asked Christian’s permission) I married him.

When Dustin shares during an A.A. meeting, he often wraps up with a favorite quote of his—and as we were slow-dancing in the half-packed kitchen at midnight (among stacks of packed moving-boxes) I was thinking we need this one on a plaque on our wall:

The Secret to Life… is to LIVE!


EDIT November 2016: OK, it felt like a happily-ever-after when I wrote the above post, but there have been some twists & turns & lessons & LIVING in the two years since. In other words, there’s more coming…





I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

24 thoughts on “The Secret to Life…

  1. Kana- what a shock! I may have missed posts because I seldom visit my Reader but the overwhelming question I am left with is WHY? I am happy for your having ‘turned the corner’, but whatever possessed him? You seemed so happy together.
    Wishing you joy in 2015 :)


    1. No, you didn’t miss any posts—I haven’t written here for four months… And as for WHY… Well, I’ve asked that question myself a whole lot of times. He picked up alcohol again at the end, but I’m not sure if that were the cause or the effect of suicidal thoughts… And he’s not here to answer, so I’m still swimming in questions on that one.


  2. Kana, I’ve missed you from ‘blogosphere’. I’ve followed your life and transactions since you started your new restaurant. Last summer my husband and I had been working on trying to GET TO YOUR restaurant from Ohio. But births and family crisis and work kept us away, for which I will always feel sad about. I feel like I’ve missed an entire life and wow, here you are. This post sure has a lot of information. I’m so sorry for the loss, so aware of the different ways we all must work through, LIVE through grief. I hope you and all the children, all the family, can live through. My hopes for you are all happy. (I’m still in shock and trying to catch up!) Be well!!!! And take care of you!!!!


  3. As hard as it has been to go through all of this, & now knowing more of the details, I have been in awe of your strength.

    We (because my boys love you too) are so happy for your new life & wish you guys much happiness.

    As always, don’t hesitate to ask us for help. 💖


  4. This had to be difficult to write. On the one hand, you want to share your happiness and joy, but before you can bring us into the current chapter of your life, you must to provide some details on the previous chapters that we’ve missed. That’s a lot of information to digest in one blog post, and some will be so stunned that they simply won’t have any words.

    I’m sorry to hear that you and your family had to endure such a tragic loss. It’s unimaginable to find yourself transitioning to the new role of widow within the blink of an eye. When my sister lost her husband, she experienced the opposite end of the time spectrum. Time stood still, and kept her locked in stagnation and confusion for several years. Only now, about seven years later, she’s finally started to understand that life continues moving forward, with or without your participation. Now she mourns those years she lost, but it’s good to see her smile again.

    Speaking of which, as I try to absorb this new information about what has been happening in your life, let me say that it is good to see your smile. Congratulations on your marriage to Dusty, and may you both share many happy years together. As you all continue to LIVE, may God be ever present in your lives, helping you to embrace all that life can provide in this next chapter of your lives. Congratulations, Kana. Live well. :-)


  5. Kana, what a loss, a shock and I can’t imagine. Thank you for sharing, this had to hard. It’s also uplifting to see how you are processing your grief. I am so sorry. Sending prayers of serenity and peace and much love.


  6. Kana,
    You’re story was both awful and wonderful. I’d wondered why no posts for such a long time. Now it is so understandable. My heart goes out to you for what happened, but is also happy for your marriage news. You are a strong individual.

    We live in WV, but visit family in Idaho. I’d hoped we might see you at the restaurant this summer, but I’m at least glad to hear that you and your children are recovering from such an awful trauma.


  7. You’ve squeezed a lot of living in the last four months. I’m so glad you had the support of your family and were smart enough to know you needed grief counseling. The beautiful smile on your face bodes well for the future! Blessings on you and your family!


  8. Thank you, Kana, for coming back to us. Thank you for living and loving when there must have been times when you wanted to shut both of those gifts down. Keep talking to us. Please.


  9. Sometimes the Universe works in ways we can’t understand, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I wish you and your family serenity, love and joy in this next phase of your lives.


  10. Holy Guacamole, woman! Gobsmacked, I am!

    Crying at the beginning of this post – laughing (with joy) by the end.

    Poor Keoni. May his spirit find peace.

    Like others, we were planning to swing by the restaurant on our way to a festival in Michigan this summer. Ahh the ironeez. :)

    Thank you yet again for trusting us with your Journey. I think the voice-over preamble to StarTrek (the one where they say ‘one’ instead of ‘man’) fits you perfectly.

    Keep on boldly living!


  11. Oh my. I have been thinking about you now and again… wondering why you weren’t posting. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss, and so happy to hear of of your new love and journey! Happy New Year to you and many felicitations!


  12. Aloha Kana. This is Kris “kalekeana” your old neighbor. I just wanted to say hello and see how you were. I think of you, Keoni, and your family often. I miss all of you. I would love to here how you are and pleas keep focusing on life, as I know you are!


  13. Kana, it’s been ages since I’ve been here and I’m so sorry to hear about Keoni. What strength you must have and as I was reading, the meaning of the first ‘verse’ came so clear and your strength in living through finding the silver lining to what was no cumulo-nimbus cloud (more like that cloud with the anvil shaped bottom that only brings thunderstorms). Life handed you some major lemons and you made lemonade.


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