A Salute to Veterans

November is also Alzheimer’s month

A Salute to Patrick at Punchbowl Cemetery (A Military Burial)

                     The soldiers stood cemented to the grassy ground

                     Like statues, while Buddhist sutras filled the air.

                     Movement would dishonor the man who once stood

                     In his uniform, like his comrades today.

                     The three – gun salute, the wailing taps,

                     The precision of the folding of the flag,

                     A salute purified by white gloves

                     For the presentation of the symbolic flag.

                     Each step of ultimate precision, a tribute to dignity,

                     Honor and respect for the fallen soldier,

                     From the country whom he had served

                     With love, dignity and honor.

                     Whatever Alzheimer’s had stolen from him,

                     All was returned to him today.

                     Whatever memories, forgotten,

                     The country that he loved, remembered.

                     A final rest in peace.

                                                     Frances H. Kakugawa

Half a Butterfly

Sometimes, even a poem cannot capture a significant image . So this is a poem of that poem that cannot be written:

Half a butterfly

On concrete walk,

So significant a sight,

Yet not a metaphor

Comes to mind.

Forgive me, wing,

For my inadequacy.

Frances 10-22-20

Book Award

Thank you, NCPA, Northern CA Publishers/Authors for awarding the Best in Non-Fiction memoirs award to my Echoes of Kapoho book.

Echoes of Kapoho  begins with Frances’ tales of  kerosene lamp-lit evenings, big-city hopes and dreams stirred by Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs – a place now under lava.

But Echoes goes beyond  to new adventures  in life and love and becoming

Blessed with a vivid imagination, a passion for writing and a penchant for forbidden books, and raised amid the anti-Japanese fervor of wartime Hawai’i, Frances yearned to escape her childhood home of Kapoho to become an author. With the help of the Goddess of Kilauea Volcano, she escapes to tell her story after Kapoho is buried twice. Part One returns to childhood stories of kerosene lamp-lit evenings, outhouses and dreams stirred by books and Sears catalogs. Part two takes Frances out of Kapoho into adventures in life, love and becoming.

There is so much dialogue on how to educate our children. Let’s pause and think of how they can educate us. I wrote this letter to 5 year old Alan Goff in Jackson, Michigan, after he became an adult.

Dear Alan,

You were in kindergarten when we first met. I walked out of that

airplane on a hot blistering August Michigan day. I saw you,

a serious little five-year-old boy, waiting for me with a bunch of assorted

gladiolus in your arms. I recognized you from a snapshot your

mother had sent. You came to me and said, “Aloha, Frances.”

Your mother and I were also meeting for the first time. We

were pen pals since the seventh grade, so we practically grew up

together although miles apart. I lived with you and your family

during my year of teaching in Jackson, distinguished by being the

only Japanese person in the community and, for many, the first Japanese

they ever saw. Reactions were widespread from the minister

who blocked my path to offer me citizenship to your dad’s mother

who did not welcome me in her home.

I met you again, so to speak, when I had finished my year of

teaching and was returning to Hawai‘i. You said to me,“You don’t

look different anymore.” “Oh,” I asked, “how do I look?” “Well,”

you said, “you look like Frances!”

I have thought of that night, and often wonder, can all of

our prejudices and fears of the unknown turn us to our humanity

with something so simple as getting to know each other? Should

we keep our first impressions of others whose customs, appearances

and language appear strange until we are able to say, “You look like

you.” Thank you, Alan.

Love, Frances

from my book Echoes of Kapoho

Brag Time

This is brag time , counter to how I was raised. My mother always said that if any bragging is to be done, let others brag about you. Be humble. My mother failed. Look! My letter appeared in today’s NY Sunday Times, in response to last week’s story on the Rainier cherries  in the State of Washington. I highly recommend that story. There were three other letters in addition to mine.NYT letter



A Mug of Winter in August

Some folks love Spring,

New faces in morning glories,

Cotton blouses and green toe nails.

Winter scarves stuffed into cedar chests.


Some folks love Fall.

The season of sounds.


Summer…I hate summers

In three digit Sacramento heat.


I brought Winter back today:

A mug of Winter –

Hot steamy cocoa –

While the city burned outside.




August 6, 2020


We sliced the chrysanthemum

Off its stalk

And let it naked in the sun.

My parents did not hear from any of their families after that day.

In 1989, Noriyo and her family moved to Hawaii from Hiroshima. Her grandmother  was exposed to the radiation as a child, and was now ridden with cancer throughout her body. Her physician had recommended the mild climate of Hawaii. Noriyo entered my third grade class:

44 Years Later

a dark mushroom cloud

follows me across the Pacific

into my classroom.


forgive us, Noriyo,

for Hiroshima

and Nagasaki.


Voice from the Unborn (excerpts)


You promised me, eons ago,

 A world, free of battlefields, soldiers, children

Abandoned  in fear and hunger.

You offered me Hope, again and again.

A world, you said, where we will stand

Hand in hand, beyond  color, religion, gender, age,

 One race. One humanity.

My brothers and sisters who believed you

Are now old men and women, and they wait.

They wait.

Nagasaki, they said, was the start of Peace.

Listen to my voice, your unborn child.

Eons ago, you sliced the chrysanthemum

Off  its stalk and left it

Naked in the sun.


Over the ashes of Hiroshima,

Our victory was hailed.

Beneath that, my ancestors lay buried.


Stop using me, your unborn child

For promises and meaningless  rhetoric.

The future is now.  I can’t wait any longer.

The future is now.  I want to be  born.

Today.  In Peace.



I lost my dear friend Sets (Setsuko Yoshida) to Covid-19. She was a statistic on April 7 in NYC, one among 731 who died that day. She was a resident at Isabella Retirement Home which was featured in the NY Times as one of those homes that was negligent.

I met Sets when she attended my first poetry writing support group for caregivers in Honolulu. She was caring for her husband who had Alzheimer’s. Her poems are included in three of my books on caregiving.

I always felt like a young pine next to a Bonsai when I was with her. I spoke to her often after she was taken to NYC by her son where she was placed in Isabela and I visited her as often as I could. During one phone call, she stopped in the middle of her sentence as she was saying how she missed her home, her friends and family in Hawaii. She  said, “Frances, I’m forgetting to be happy exactly where I am.”

The irony is this, that she died alone. She was the first RN to open the AIDS unit in Hawaii and was recognized for her work by the Life Foundation in 1986. She held the hand of the first AIDS patient who died. She said, “I felt like that patient was my teacher….that young man showed me his humanity, how caring, how courageous one can be in accepting the illness and the courageous way – sometimes humorously , sometimes sadly – in which he faced his impending death.” She stood up against the fears and ignorance that was a rage then.

When one young man told her, “I’m still very young…why did this happen to me?” Sets said that it is not for her to judge others, she encouraged him to celebrate life. “I know you say you want to die, but it doesn’t happen that way. You have to live every day until you die.”

We talked of her work with the AIDS patients a week before she died. She was fine and we compared the present pandemic to her work  with AIDS. A week later, she was gone. I have to believe, all the young men whose hands she held, were there holding hers. I’ll see you later, Sets.

sets and me at Rock center



An easier link:

*Frances Kakugawa is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom Grief Writing Class*

*Time: SATURDAY, Jul 18, 2020 *

*2:00 PM Hawaii Standard Time, 5:00 PM Pacific Time, *

*8:00 PM Eastern Time*

*Join Zoom Grief Writing Class Link*


*Meeting ID: 896 202 2411*

*NOTE:  If you are unsure about using ZOOM, join us Friday for a practice


*Time: FRIDAY, Jul 17, 2020 *

*12:30PM Hawaii Standard Time, 3:30PM Pacific Time, *

*6:30PM Eastern Time *

*Join Zoom Meeting*


*Meeting ID: 896 202 2411*

*Still having trouble?   *

*Call Patrick (808) 518 6649 or Email: patoal@alz.org <patoal@alz.org>*
*T. Patrick Toal, MSW* | Big Island Regional Coordinator | Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter 1130 N.Nimitz Highway Suite A-265 Honolulu, HI 96817 Office: 808.591.2771 ext. 8234| patoal@alz.org | www.alz.org/hawaii Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline: (800) 272-3900 Facebook Page:https://www.facebook.com/AlzheimersAssociationAlohaChapter [image: TLD] <http://act.alz.org/site/TR?fr_id=9704&pg=entry>