The Pink Lady Goes Home: Remembering Elizabeth Kahihikolo
By Father Pat Killilea, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa
The cortege left St. Francis Church grounds to the strains of an Elvis Presley song and headed up the hill past the movie house toward Staff Row. The procession was led by Kahohulani in her truck, bearing the casket containing the body of our friend and long-time resident, Elizabeth. We passed the burned-out site of the former state kitchen where she had enjoyed many a meal with her friends over the years. Then we passed McVeigh Hall where she had participated in many celebrations. Next we slowed down as we passed her house as well as that of her sister, Gertrude, where her sister had fed all the cats in the neighborhood. Then it was on to Bishop Home, where in recent years she often visited in her motorized wheelchair. Meantime, a few of her caregivers rode in the back of the truck, accompanying Elizabeth’s body while horns tooted in celebration of her spirit’s return to the Father in our heavenly home.
I first met Elizabeth Kahihikolo in the summer of 2006, when she and Gertrude would come to Mass every Sunday and sit up front. It is said that one would control the foot pedals and the other the steering wheel in their vehicle. That was truly team work. When I returned to Kalaupapa in 2012, she still lived in her own house and I would get to visit her on Sunday mornings. Then I would see her family pictures as well as her many stuffed animals. Later, after she moved to the Care Home, I marveled on seeing her bed covered with her stuffed animals and she would laugh when I asked her where she slept.
Elizabeth was an avid fan of Elvis Presley and, when I arrived at the Care Home on Sunday mornings to bring Communion to her, Pauline and Ivy, she would be parked in her motorized chair in front of the TV, watching Elvis in Blue Hawaii. Then she would motor to the kitchen/dining room area at the other end of the corridor where we conducted our Communion service. On the way I would tell her to “keep the speed limit.” Afterwards she would invite me to join her for lunch and I would often sit at the table with her and other resident patients. Now she had this pink colored drink set on the table in front of her which I called the “Pink Lady.” Keep in mind that Pink Lady is actually an alcohol-based cocktail. So I often joked with her about this and she got a kick out of the idea, even though her drink did not contain any alcohol… at least as far as I know. I will miss my Pink Lady.
The cortege had arrived at the cemetery and the casket had been placed on the temporary platform over the grave. The committal prayers were offered by the pastor (that’s me) and the casket was then slowly lowered into its soft sandy resting place while the assembled group sang a beautiful farewell. Then the sandy soil began to close over the final resting place of Elizabeth’s earthly remains. Her soul had already taken flight to the heavenly realms. We bade farewell for now to Elizabeth and returned to our homes, but I will always remember her with that smile on her face. My Pink Lady has gone to her eternal peace with the Lord.