Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Goodbye Vinae, you will be remembered and missed!

Food For Thought 5-25-07

Hi friends, this is Harry Blalock; General Manager for radio stations KZMI & KCNM. It’s that time once again to take a look at the issues of the week, and to offer some Food For Thought.

This is one of those weeks when I knew what I wanted to talk about the week before. There are some very pressing issues just begging for attention and comment, that all changed though last Sunday afternoon. One of the friends that I was supposed to go diving with was late because of an accident on middle road. He told me it was a bad accident, but I didn’t really think much more about it until the next morning. Then I read the story about this beautiful young lady who had just recently turned 17 who was tragically killed in the accident. I sat there for a while feeling very bad for the family, wondering how they were handling this horrible event.

But then the story was brought even closer home as one of my announcers came in and told me who this young lady was, and that I knew her. Her father Ben used to work for me as a salesman, and I still count him as a good friend. I have talked with her mother Nadine many times in the past, and have always enjoyed her company as well. But I have also spent time talking with Vinae, and was always so impressed with her. Now that I knew who it was that we lost in this horrible accident my heart was literally breaking and the pain in my chest was palpable.

It has been a couple years since I have seen Vinae. She always used to come in to wait for her dad when he was working here. I remember the first time Ben introduced me to her, he told me she was a regular listener to my Food For Thought and a fan. I believe she was 12 at that time, and I wondered why a 12 year old would be interested in the things I was talking about, and how much of it she truly understood. But as I talked to her and listened to her, it was obvious this was no ordinary 12 year old. Vinae seemed to have an intelligence and intellect that went far beyond her years. Here was a girl who did understand the issues, and was trying to learn more about them all the time. She obviously truly loved this island she called home, and was concerned about it, and what was happening to it. Whenever I would see her sitting out front waiting for her dad, I would invite her to come in and sit on my couch, since it was more comfortable and to talk about things. She usually declined saying she didn’t want to be a bother, so I would chat with her out there for a few minutes.

As much as I hated losing Ben as a salesman when he left, I think I hated losing those opportunities to chat for a few minutes with Vinae just as much. She was everything that’s right about these islands, she was indeed what we need for the future, a beautiful, intelligent young woman who is concerned about the issues facing us all and has spent plenty of time thinking about them.

Even back when I knew her, it was obvious that she was the kind of big sister that the rest of her siblings loved and looked up to. She was beautiful, poised and confident, just the sort of older sister that every younger sister wants to be like. She had a smile that seemed to just take over a room when she graced you with it. So it came to no surprise to me when I read about her accomplishments in the Miss Teen pageant. I wasn’t the least bit surprised that she walked away with the bulk of the awards. And I smiled to myself as I read that she was truly impressive as she answered the judge’s questions. I bet they were as amazed and impressed with her as I was. I’m sorry I missed out on seeing her in that pageant, and I’m sorry I’ve missed the opportunity of having those little chats with her the last couple of years.

Right now is our time to grieve, to remember all the wonderful things about Vinae, and how she managed to touch each of us in a very personal way. It’s a time to share our stories of her, to laugh and cry with each other, and to be there for her family and let them know we’re there for them. No, this is not the first death that most of us have had to deal with, but somehow that doesn’t seem to make it any easier. She was taken away from us much, much too early. She still had so much to offer and give, she was really just getting to the point where she was going to start living her life.

I talked about losing my good friend and fellow Rotarian Elias Okamura a couple years ago, and how hard that was. But Elias had lived a long and full life; it’s just that most of us didn’t want to let him go, we were used to having Elias there all the time. I do still think of Elias every week, and still miss him all the time, and yes, I still shed tears when I think of him and remember him occasionally. Elias left a real imprint on my life, and I will always be grateful for it. Elias was someone I respected immensely and always looked up to, he was the kind of person I was proud to claim was my friend. To me, Vinae is in the same class as Elias. No, she hasn’t lived as many years or accomplished as many things, but the people she has touched she has affected just as deeply. And from the people I have talked to this past week who knew Vinae, I know that she had that same effect on people.

Depending on your religious views, most of us believe that after death there is a new and glorious life waiting for you. And we try to console ourselves by telling each other that they are better off now and in a much better place. But the truth of the matter is, that death just stinks for those of us that are left behind. Our hearts are breaking and the tears just don’t seem to ever quit. And it’s ok to grieve, to cry over the pain of losing a loved one. I don’t agree with those who tell you that you have to be tough at times like this, and not let your emotions show. Robots don’t have emotions, humans do, and it’s only natural to feel and experience them.

When I lost my father shortly before moving out here, there was one incident that meant the world to me, and still sticks with me to this day. There was an older gentleman, Jim, who had a quarrel with my father years before, and neither of them ever got along after that. I had moved back to my hometown and had become friends with this older gentleman - we were golfing buddies. My father had ended his own life and left me pretty much totally devastated. On the first night of visitation at the funeral home, Jim was the first person to arrive. He was a retired state trooper, a bear of a man who had a reputation of being tough as steel. He had this tough, calloused exterior that most people never saw through, but for whatever reason, he let me get to know the real Jim. He walked in with tears in his eyes; he came straight to me and just wrapped me up in a big bear hug. We both just openly sobbed together. He didn’t have any magic words to make everything better or to make the pain go away, but he was willing to be there and to share the pain with me. That gesture meant more to me than anything else, and he knew it, which is why he was there and was willing to show his tender side, something which most people, even some of his family members never knew existed. The last time I was in the states, Jim was dying of cancer, and didn’t have much time left. He was refusing all visitors, as he didn’t want anyone to see him in that condition. I called his wife and told her I was back for a short time and asked if there was any way that Jim might agree to see me. When he found out it was me, he told me of course I could come. It was hard seeing my old golfing buddy withering away and in that condition, and I didn’t have any words of wisdom or magic cures. But Jim knew why I was there, and that visit meant the world to both of us. Words didn’t really need to be spoken; it was the hearts that were communicating.

I share all this to let you know that it’s ok if you don’t have any magic words to say to the family or loved ones when you go to Vinae’s funeral, just being there to share a hug and the tears will mean more than any words ever could. This is a time when the family needs all the love and support they can get. It is appropriate that the funeral is on Memorial Day. The public viewing for Vinae starts at 9 am Monday morning at the Mount Carmel Cathedral, the Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 am and Internment services will be at noon. I would encourage you to go to the funeral for Vinae if you knew her or the family and to be there for them, just showing them that you love them and care.
And for those who didn’t know Vinae, or the family, I would like to encourage you to go to the new Veteran’s Cemetery in Marpi for the Memorial Day Service honoring our fallen soldiers. We all owe these fallen soldiers a debt of gratitude we can never repay, and at the very least we owe the families of the soldiers that are left behind our support. This is such a small way to show our support and appreciation, but it is one that truly makes a difference to the families left behind. Too many times Memorial Day is just another day off, and another excuse to go the beach for a party. This year let’s remember what Memorial Day is really all about and pay our proper respects to our heroes and show our support to their families. You will still have all afternoon for your parties and get togethers, but let’s pack out our new Veteran’s Cemetery and show the families of our fallen soldiers that we truly appreciate their sacrifice and service. The service starts at 9 am Monday morning at the Veteran’s Cemetery, which is located on the road going to Bonzai Cliff.

Vinae you will be remembered and missed, and to all of our fallen soldiers, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

I’m Harry Blalock, thanking you once again for giving me a generous slice of your valuable time, and allowing me to share my Food For Thought.

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My commentary that airs on radio stations KZMI - 103.9 FM & KCNM - 101.1 FM