Just as life was rolling along on a busier than usual Thursday it all came to a screeching halt that night. I had just turned in for the evening when my cell phone rang. Like every night I had left it on the charger plugged into my laptop in the living room.
Lisa found it and said Erlette called. We both knew that if his wife called us at 11:30 p.m. it could not be good news.
We were right.
I quickly called her back but the call went to voice mail. It was 6:30 p.m. in Hawaii. Just when I was about to push redial the phone rang in my hand. Erlette told me the news. My only remaining brother died in her arms on the way to the Emergency Room. I did not even know he had been ill. No one in the family back here knew that his entire household had tested positive for COVID-19 just a couple of days before.
He lived in the island paradise for the past 30+ years on the island of Oahu in the home of Erlette’s ancestors on gorgeous Waimanalo Beach., just a few yards from where they were married. Johnny and Erlette were perfect for each other.
Since he suffered from COPD and was already on oxygen Erlette said he told her the time was near but he did not want to die all alone in the hospital. Something changed Thursday afternoon when she said he told her “it is time” and they helped him into the car to go to the ER. The way I understand it he died in her arms in the back seat of their car while on the way to the hospital. It was the way he had preferred to go.
Johnny, as he was known through high school and always to the family, was 77. He was kind to all and will be remembered as one who cared deeply, especially for family.
He was a very smart brother and a deep thinker.
If I had an old high school yearbook to look through I would be reminded that he was three-letter athlete: football, basketball and track. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps right after basketball season ended in his senior year and served a four-year enlistment in active duty, his fourth and final year in Okinawa. He was honorably discharged about a month before the Vietnam War began. He considered re-enlisting but did not.
Our dad died before I was two and Johnny was a few months shy of turning 10. Johnny taught me how to tie my shoes, how to dig fence holes and a lot about life.
We were lucky enough to visit him and his family in Hawaii three times, the first being his wedding day on Waimanalo Beach with Rabbit Island as a back drop. On his last flight home he told the family that it would be his last trip. And it was.
R.I. P. brother.