Today makes 9 years ......

February 9th 2005


While I was somewhere between Section D and E of Aloha Stadium swap meet, Jon’s head struck the reef at Backdoor/Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu and his lungs filled with water. 


He had a passionate love affair with her, the Ocean.    He was always running off to be with her every chance he could get.  In our relationship, she was definitely the “Other woman”.  But I knew she made him happy.  And so, I never tried to keep them apart.  Doing so would change the man that I loved, and if that meant including her in our relationship, then I was prepared to share him with her.  There was evidence of her everywhere in our life.  Her accessories were all over our house and photographs of her adorned our walls.  He spoke of her incessantly like he could never get enough.  Even if he spent 12 hours with her today, he would still yearn for her tomorrow.  I attempted to deal with my jealousy of her over the years.   As a newly wed, I woke up in the early mornings searching our bed for him, but he had already gone to be with her. I knew She fulfilled certain needs that I couldn’t.  As silly as it sounds, I wanted to know that he loved me more.  I wanted him to respond to my calls for him above hers.  I wanted to know that I had more power over him, than she did.  Yet somehow, deep down, I knew she would win. 


On the morning of February 9, 2005, Jon was particularly stoked!  He had been craving her and there was a 6-8 foot north swell.  The alarm went off at 6:50am. Jon had set it as usual. It was the same alarm clock he had been given from his parents upon graduating from high school. It had been with us every day of our marriage and frankly, it was not my friend! He simply asked, “Hun, can you get it?”  We had just moved, three days earlier into his brother’s house. Our home was going to be lifted and another story put underneath, so we were sleeping on a bunk bed. When we went to sleep the night before, he was with me. But, as I got up to turn off the alarm, he had been replaced with a child. Our baby Anela was in bed with me, and he was on the top bunk. Ironic when I think of it now. I turned the alarm off and went back to bed. I had never been a morning person. Jon was. He got up and was in an especially excited mood. Ecstatic almost. He put in a new DVD he had purchased. It was of some surfers at Teahupoo and one of the surfers had survived a really gnarly wipeout. This got Jon pumped up. He got the kids ready for school and I asked him to pick them up because I was going to go to swap meet. He agreed, yet for some reason I gave Makana the house key and told him just in case, to walk home. He had to use the key that day.

We had had a nice last evening together. We had been working so hard to get the house all packed up in preparation for the build. Jon had worked long hours the days before and we were finally resting in bed. He started kissing me and I smiled. I told him I had not talked to him for so long and I missed him. I asked him if we could talk. “How long do we have to talk?” I smiled again and kissed him back, “not long I said” before I understood his desire and kissed him back into the darkness of the night.

When I was driving home from swap meet, I got a phone call. Where’s Uncle Jon? It was one of the teenagers we had at our house frequently. He’s at the beach I told her. She said that there had been a photographer hurt at Pipeline and it might be him. I assured her that it was not and that he was fine. I kept driving home; I had about another 20 minutes to go. My mind was racing over this information. I had been trying to call Jon for the last couple hours but he was not picking up. I called his brother Allen who had been at the beach with him all day. He answered. His voice was shaky. He said he didn’t know if it was Jon or what was going on. I got off the phone. I needed more information. I dialed 411 for the number to Kahuku Hospital. My phone was dying. The idiots on the other end said there was no Kahuku Hospital. I was loosing reception. Finally I got the number and called the hospital. I thought that a simple phone call would clear this all up and I wouldn’t need to worry. I had no idea what would happen in the next few hours, days, weeks, months, and now years.

“Your husband is here”  (Not what I was expecting to hear). “You need to get here as soon as you can but drive safely”.  I was already driving. The bendy roads on the windward side of Oahu went on and on forever. My body started to tingle. Like the circulation to it had stopped, literally like my heart had stopped pumping it through my body. I had been to Kahuku Hospital before not knowing what I would find when I got there. I was lucky that time. When I arrived, I saw that the shark had left all Jon’s body parts in tact and the 100 or so stitches were a welcome relief.  It meant there was life there to save. But that time they had cleared him out of Kahuku hospital as quickly as they could. I thought about this as I was winding the roads to get to him. What does this mean? Either it is not serious at all, or it is too late. My body tingled some more. I thought of my husband on a hospital bed and knew that he could not live a restricted life void of the things he loved to do.  I said to God, “It’s all or nothing”.   Little did I know when I was bargaining with God, he had already closed the deal.

And so, while deciding to buy two cheap imported blouses from China, Jon’s heart stopped beating.  I know the minute it happened because I heard him whisper to me and I smiled.  Not about dying or anything like that.  Instead it was something so typical of our relationship.  While I was staring at the blouses (taking way too long), I heard him say, “Just decide already!”  I looked at my watch, bought the cheap blouses, and left swap meet pushing our 2-year old baby girl in her stroller.  I tried calling Jon multiple times just to check that he was going to get the kids from school but he did not answer.  Now, an hour later an emergency room doctor had his hand on my shoulder and was looking me straight in the eye.  He was saying words but my brain couldn’t wrap itself around them.    Pulled out of the water … lifeguards …. tried …. firemen …. backup …. Paramedics …. Hospital …defibrillator …. Unable to resuscitate … and then finally the words that cut to the chase, severed my heart , and changed the course of my life.  “I pronounced your husband dead”. 


This photo was taken during the last weeks of Jon's life and is a treasure to us. Mauru'uru    Heifara Dutertre for capturing it and being a great friend to Jon and us all.  

This photo was taken during the last weeks of Jon's life and is a treasure to us. Mauru'uru  Heifara Dutertre for capturing it and being a great friend to Jon and us all.  

Announcement: Image of the Month Series

A new feature we just added to the website is the “Image of the Month”.   Each month we will select a special photo and post it, along with the reason why it was chosen and some thoughts or words about it.  TWO lucky people will receive a FREE 16x20 Fine Art Photograph of that image in our monthly drawing.  If you wish to sign up for the FREE Image of the Month photo, please submit your email address (under the news heading) and your done! 


*Free means Free, which means we pay for the shipping too.  You’re welcome!    

Kia Kaha

This note from Jon was found in a shed in our backyard, a year after he passed away.  Its ironic that such an important message could be wedged between such unimportant objects like spray paint and WD40 but there it was; in a clear sheet protector, attached to an 8x10 photo of Jon surfing at Pipeline.


I’ve read and reread this note hundreds of times.  I visualize Jon and the emotions he must have been feeling which led him to write these words.  I wonder how long it took to write it, and how he chose his words, especially his final words, “Kia Kaha”.  Words very familiar to me, and most Maori people.

After hearing about this final letter, our friend (a Maori culture expert) explained, “The phrase (Kia Kaha) is saying to be strong, to be courageous, to be powerful.  I know that Jon had a respect for the culture. He would have heard many times in our performing arts the leaders calling out to the ranks, “Kia Kaha” to be strong, to lift, to be courageous.  And what I can appreciate about this phrase in this letter (as his last words to say) is that he’s not saying to develop it, he’s not saying to be strong-er, but just to continue to be what you are. Powerful.  Strong. Courageous as a family.  To continue being it”.  –Seamus Fitzgerald

For the last 8 years we have been adjusting and learning and crying and growing, but mostly laughing and loving. This process has taught us that as you search diligently for beauty and peace in your life, you can find it.    This blog is evidence that we are trying to be true to Jon’s last words, “Kia Kaha”.  We hope you will visit the blog and find strength in the images and words found here.

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