Unfortunate news arrived last week when I found out about my Grandmother. Her passing on September 9th made me think of all the good times we spent together and how she will be missed. The whole family came together in Hawaii for her funeral two days ago. The service was very fitting. In typical Buddhist tradition, the minister chanted the “okyo” and rang the big bowl-shaped gong. Amongst the 4 grandchildren, we split up the duties of the ceremony and gave our grandma our personal send-off. For my part, I wrote a short eulogy of what my grandma meant to me and how her life was so very special. Even though she never understood the Internet, or even how to use a computer, I wanted to share her eulogy with the electronic world.
The person we gather here for tonight, my grandma, held high expectations for all of us. We all had our own special relationship with Eleanor Asako Ukishima. Whether we were her sibling, her friend, her daughter, or one of many others that were honored to share in her life, this passing brings forth recollections of joyous times and events we shared with her. Since last Friday, I’ve been going through a few of my own recollections. Years of memories that are filled with joy, sorrow, inspiration and enormous caring. From going to UH football games with her, and Uncle Danny and Matthew, to New Year’s Eve celebrations, where we would have mochi-soup and a house filled with extended family. Personally, I enjoyed the one-on-one lunches that grandma and I used to have. It gave us our own space, our own time to spend with one anther. A chance to scroll through her rolodex of memories of a lifetime spent raising a family with Grandpa George and all the other snippets and stories that painted vivid pictures of growing up with her 3 brothers and 2 sisters. Sometimes she would had trouble remembering something she did just a week before, but other times, she could recall verbatim conversations that happened 40 years ago regarding phone calls with Danny while he was studying at Gonzaga. Oh the stories she could tell and oh how she enjoyed telling them.
In growing up on the plantation, Eleanor was limited by resources and education. These humble beginnings guided her on a lifelong goal of always striving to provide her children a more advantageous start than what she had. Eleanor only reached the 9th grade, pretty good for a country-girl coming from the rural outskirts of Wailua. For her own kids, Eleanor knew education would be the golden ticket to opportunity and success. She gave up many personal luxuries to provide for her children. She and her husband George were able to send Danny to Law School in Washington State, and Arlene to study in Japan. Mind you, this was during a time when it was a struggle to send children to college, let alone to post-graduate degrees outside of Hawaii. Even for us grandkids, she constantly gave us everything she could. Every trip to Las Vegas ended with her splitting her winnings with all 4 grandchildren. Granted not all trips were “winning” trips, but I loved the fact that she kept trying. Even over the last few years, when walking became more difficult, Eleanor kept going on trips. And you know she loved it.
There is a phrase “Sic transit gloria mundi” – Latin for “Thus passes the glory of the world” – It signifies that each of us only has a finite time to live, to love, to share with one another. Eleanor used her time, everyday, with such passion and fortitude. Surely you could see it through the smile on her face, or the way her eyes beamed when you walked into the room. It’s common knowledge that the legacy of a person is measured not by the work they’ve done, but by those they’ve touched. During Eleanor’s 86 years, we’ve all been lucky enough to be a part of her life. But her work is not done; it lives on in all of us. Those little dishtowels she made that hang in our kitchen, the way her grandkids have built such a close relationship, those are all reminders of her impact and her love for all of us.
Tonight, we say goodbye to a great lady. The likes of a generation that impressed upon us all to strive to our limits and achieve our dreams. And as we go on, it’s OUR job to continue to impress upon OURSELVES the drive and inspiration that Eleanor gave to us. Goodbye Grandma, You’ll always be in our hearts.