The Last Farewell
Opinion by Father Pat Killilea, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa
“There’s a ship lies rigged and ready in the harbor, tomorrow for old England she sails
Far away from your land of sunshine to my land full of rainy skies and gales
And I shall be aboard that ship tomorrow, though my heart is full of tears at this farewell
For you are beautiful and I have loved you dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell.”
For those of you who were into the hit songs of the 70s, “The Last Farewell” is one of them, sung by the great Kenyan-Englishman, Roger Whittaker, in 1971. While it speaks of a seafarer about to leave the endless sunshine of the South Sea Islands and return to his native land of rain and gales, it could represent the story of one’s journey on the seas of life with its joys and sorrows. Indeed, it could echo the life of our very own Clarence “Boogie” Kahilihiwa.
Boogie, as he was affectionately known since his younger days, was born on Hawaii Island. As a youngster, he was diagnosed with Hansen’s disease and then shipped to the original Hale Mohalu on Oahu. Then in 1959, he chose to move to Kalaupapa to be with some of his family who were already here. Kalaupapa has never been the same since.
Boogie was a multitasker. In his early years in the settlement he plied his skills as a painter but so far I have not discovered any Mona Lisa that is credited to his brush. In the days of movie-going, he was the man behind the projector. He was an active member of the Lions Club and a strong advocate for patients’ rights. He was instrumental in founding Ka’ Ohana O Kalaupapa and worked the book store gift shop until he left Kalaupapa to join his beloved wife two years ago at Hale Mohalu in Kaimuki.
Some weeks past, we were delighted to see him touch down at our airport when he came for a short visit to the town he loved so well, his home in Kalaupapa. All too soon the day of his departure arrived, and those of us who could, gathered at the airport to hold his big hands, to chat with him and to say farewell for now.
This morning we gathered at St. Francis Church to celebrate the Mass of the Resurrection for Boogie. Though the setting was somber, we celebrated the journey of Boogie on the ocean of life. A procession of vehicles through the town he knew so well followed until we arrived at Papaloa Cemetery. We offered the final prayers and commended Boogie’s soul to the care of the Lord he had loved so well. It was now time for the last farewell.