Kalaupapa Celebrates the Fountain of Youth
By Father Pat Killilea, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa
He walked through the doorway like the second coming of King Kamahameha with a young woman on his arm and I thought, “Oh my, he surely has discovered the fountain of youth!” Bugles blared and a host of voices sang out, “Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, dear John!”
It was the eve of Palm Sunday and we had gathered at the home of Winnie Harada to celebrate the birthday of her neighbor and longtime friend, John Arruda. John was celebrating his ninety years of youth with great gusto. Power to the Portuguese!
John was born and grew up on the beautiful island of Kauai. In 1945 after he had been diagnosed with Hansen’s disease, better known in those days as leprosy, John arrived here in Kalaupapa. By that time, the settlement had been on the Kalaupapa side of this peninsula for 13 years as the Kalawao settlement had closed in 1932. So John experienced life here prior to the arrival of sulfone drugs in 1947. In 1957 John left Kalaupapa and returned to Kauai in order to care for his mother and sister. However, as is evidenced by his frequent visits here, John has a special fondness in his heart for Kalaupapa and for his many friends here.
Holy Week is a special time for all Christians, and for us here this special time is enhanced, if that is possible, by having our friends from outside the settlement join us. So we rejoiced in having John with us for all of our Holy Week services and especially for our Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Mass. John in his unique way is a link between what has been and what is today in Kalaupapa. I had the pleasure and the privilege of sitting next to him at the Easter Sunday noontime dinner at McVeigh Hall hosted by our good friend and benefactor, Edwin Lalepali, and his friends from our nearby Congregational Church.
The white and pink flowers are now bursting forth on the plumeria trees representing the new life in nature as at the same time, they remind us Christians that we have new life in the Risen Christ. Soon John Arruda will skip onto a plane as he returns to his home and his garden on Kauai. We will most certainly miss his presence amongst us but we are happy for him and we know that he will return to us again in the near future just as we believe that Christ himself will return one day in glory. Long live Christ! Long live John Arruda!