Help When The End Is Near

When her husband of 60 years, Turk Tokita, was diagnosed with a terminal illness, Emi Tokita turned to Kauai Hospice. ‘They were so kind and gentle’ in helping them navigate their final days together, she says

It wasn’t easy for Emiko Tokita to say goodbye to her beloved husband of nearly 60 years, 94-year-old World War II veteran Tetsuo “Turk” Tokita, who died last month at their Lihue home. What made the loss of her sweetheart more comforting was the care and supervision provided by Kauai Hospice (KH) staff and volunteers.

“They were so kind and gentle,” she says of the people who helped her care for her husband — with whom she has three adult children, Lane, Mari and Ken, and five grandchildren — during his final months.

Not only did hospice employees make him feel more at ease with the transition, they gave the lovebirds the time and opportunity to say goodbye in ways they might not have otherwise been able to without their dedicated assistance. Tears were shed, moments appreciated and words of love exchanged up until his last days. At the suggestion of KH, the two even wrote love letters to one another: Turk read his before he passed away, and Emi was given hers after he was gone.

“Someday, I’ll let my children read them,” she says.

KH helps people such as Tokita prepare for the death of a loved one diagnosed with a serious illness who has been given six months or less to live. The nonprofit provides an interdisciplinary team of private nurses (also called patient-care coordinators, who help teach and empower caregivers), certified nurse’s aides, doctors for consultation and social workers, as well as bereavement and spiritual specialists.

“We see ourselves as a center for compassion,” says Tricia Yamashita, operations director for KH.

At a moment’s notice, KH representatives visit people in their homes to support the person who is ill, as well as the entire ohana. It allows people to say goodbye, heal any wounds and share their love — all in the comfort of their own home.

“You can find a way to focus on the chances it’s giving you,” says Yamashita. “It gives you the chance to slow down long enough to think about the goodbye and make the most of the thank you and I love you. That’s a great gift to be left with.”

Tokita admits she had heard of KH, but didn’t realize just how beneficial its services were until she needed them.

“They are so wonderful,” she says. Now she recommends KH assistance to anyone who may need help caring for an ailing loved one.

“You can’t go wrong,” she says. “I don’t know if I could have managed as well without them.”

Tokita especially enjoyed the volunteers who came to her home just to spend time and talk story with Turk. Having lived such a fascinating and fulfilling life — including earning two Purple Hearts for his time served fighting as part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during WWII — Turk had many stories he loved to share. And the volunteers gave him the additional emotional and mental stimulation he still craved.

“He was the wisest man — so humble and so kind,” says Emi, who met Turk while she was a nurse working in the same Lihue building that housed his photography business.

People such as Turk are the reason KH hopes to continue providing services, and it is celebrating those relationships this weekend during its annual Concert in the Sky. Along with commemorating the birth of the United States and honoring those who have served and continue to serve their county, KH also is marking its 25th anniversary.

On Friday (July 4), join KH for its Independence Day “friendraiser” from 4 to 9:30 p.m. at Vidinha Soccer Field. It includes a fireworks display, “The Funzone” for keiki and a musical performance by Anuhea. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12, and are available for purchase through Thursday (July 3) at all Times/Big Save locations, KH or at At the gate, tickets cost $15 for adults and $7 for children ages 6-12. All proceeds will benefit KH.