Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Today is six months since Matt​'s death. I am relieved to feel time passing, getting us further and further from that moment of horror and pain. But it also means that the finality of it is starting to sink in-- all his chances and options were suddenly closed off and there will never be any explanations or answers or happy endings for him. I've found unfinished screenplays in his work notebooks. I've found journals with just one or two entries. And that's it.

When someone dies by suicide, they don't get rid of their unbearable, impossible pain. They give it to their families-- to their children.

Right now we are still struggling to breathe under the weight of that sudden horrifying tsunami of pain, and trying to find ways to understand it, forgive it, be gentle with it, move through it and with it, transform it from jagged spikes into rolling waves. It's already been six months. It's only been six months. Time expands and contracts weirdly with death-- it was yesterday-- it was another lifetime.
But it's also thanksgiving time. And I'm filled with gratitude. I'm so grateful for my grandmother who allows me to make her meals and clutter up her life with kid art and wild gigglers, and for the seasons turning from ripe fall into stark and thoughtful winter. I'm grateful for the made-family that has come around me and mine.
And I'm thankful for a memory like this that makes me smile. This was his version of a love note. He stacked MY favorite books on the goat cheese to press it, and left it there for me to find in the hurry and scurry of the day. I saw it. There were good moments. They can sweeten the darkness.
Matt's cheese-making is a literary process. Special thanks to JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien, Ray Bradbury and CS Lewis. And the goats.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Who Would Jesus Shun?

Last night my aunt and uncle brought over their 9 kids and a vat of spaghetti and meatballs. My girls and a few cousins disappeared downstairs to craft American Girl doll sandals out of ribbon and foam. I was tired-- my focus to a pinprick, and wanted to be flat on the ground. That is what grief feels like to me sometimes. Dull, flat, tiny, mute-- my grieving body.

After dinner my aunt and uncle, really generous and loving people, called the kids into the living room around grandma's recliner and asked for a prayer and a spiritual thought for family home evening. Their oldest daughter volunteered. She's a beautiful girl-- with a sort of timeless prettiness. She seems poured from a Jane Austen novel or L. M. Montgomery-- no makeup, no hair product, a ponytail, rosy cheeks, clear eyes. My grandma has an old picture of her with a tea set on her fridge-- that is where she belongs. Under an apple tree, pouring tea into floral china.

She shared Matthew 7:1-3. "Judge not, that ye be not judged." She added, "somewhere along the line, the translators just messed it up, or thought they'd change it."
This is the Joseph Smith translation, which is added as a footnote in the LDS version of the New Testament. " 2 Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment."

She read this version to us. She explained that people think this Bible verse means it's bad to judge other people, that somehow judging other people is wrong and makes you mean, but REALLY it means it's only bad to judge other people --- if you are wrong. If you are right and they are bad, go ahead and judge them. The original verse makes it sound like you should just let everybody do whatever they want and focus on your own issues, but no.  Joseph Smith fixed that for us.

She illustrated. Her seminary teacher met some really cool folks-- really smart, really kind. But they were swearing and he knew that sometimes they drank coffee, tea or alcholo (all verboten in Mormon theology). So he decided he couldn't spend time with them because they would have a bad influence on him. That, she explained, is an example of righteous judgment.

"Don't SHUN, them, exactly... just limit your time with them, and their influence on you."

One of the twins, a year older than her, piped up. "But what about your influence on them? Can't you spend time with them to lift them up?"

She grimaced. "Well, no, because influence goes both ways."

I wanted to say, "So, maybe you shouldn't bring them spaghetti dinners?" I have tattoos, I happily drink tons of coffee, I've had my name removed from the church's records last year (when they banned the children of same-sex couples from getting baptized), and I have a prominent rainbow magnet on my car. I have kept the things I loved from my LDS upbringing, but many things from that legacy are damaging and took a lot of gentle untangling to heal from. I am not lost or strayed-- I am healed and healing from the church. I won't categorically say I will NEVER go back, because life is weird and you never know, but I certainly don't feel like I SHOULD go back. I feel like me and Jesus and God are on good terms. I certainly feel blessed and loved and guided by the universe. I feel like I'm learning-- I'm a work in progress. I am on a path, I'm not wallowing in a ditch waiting to be hauled back onto the road.

I felt a little astonished listening to this lovely child say these things-- fearing so much for the fragility of her goodness that any exposure to difference would damage it.

The parents tried, bless them, to bring Jesus back into it. My aunt asked her daughter, "What would Jesus do?"

My cousin agreed heartily. "Exactly. Think of the standards of behavior Jesus expects."

"Who would Jesus spend time with, though?" my aunt asked.

My uncle said, "That's a high bar."

My cousin agreed again, somberly-- "It IS a high standard we have to hold to."

"Well," my uncle said, "loving as Jesus does is a high bar."

It didn't get through. The conversation ended on an uncomfortable note-- or maybe it was just my discomfort. Are they spending time with me in order to have some good influence on me? Are they careful to seal themselves up from my influence? I was tired. I felt smaller.

Jesus spent his time LOVING the most despised --- the most "righteously" judged-- people in his society. And he got out a whip and knocked shit over. That was against the hypocrites and the people making profits off of others' faith. He embraced the sinners and the unclean and the damaged. He wasn't worried that they'd somehow damage him.

The best human interactions are mutual-- we shine our lights onto each other, amplifying the light, the goodness. The god in me greets the god in you, and we are all lit a little brighter with that heavenly fire.

These parents are good. This family is good. This teenage daughter is good. But they-- and the many other like them (88.12% of the county where we live) will hurt my kids. If my girls, raised out of the church, are supposed to be shunned because of their potential for bad influence, if the name of Jesus is used as a barrier between people instead of a madly, impossibly open gate called Grace... then we're not safe here. We're not safe anywhere near that kind of judgement.

So the Utah safety net... it's appealing. Addresses are easy to find. The schools are safe and fun. I just crash landed here and I have already friends around that I can hike with, build bonfires with. But it's that undercurrent-- in spite of having parents who genuinely want to do and be good-- the Mormon kids pick up on and distill a fearfulness, a self-righteousness, and a resistance to difference that will only damage them and the people around them.

We need a lesson from Frodo. A badness "look fairer, and feel fouler." Goodness-- light, truth, royalty-- can be scruffy and unkempt. Just because something scares you doesn't mean it's bad.

Settling in....Elsewhere.

When I made this blog about 8 years ago, I was living in a one-room ohana apartment attached to a farmhouse on Hawaiian Homelands in Waimea, Big Island. I was thinking hard-- learning hard-- trying to understand the things I saw-- the dusty thorny beaches studded with hidden black petroglyphs in the shadow of a walled resort where you could pet pink dolphins. I was trying to figure out my place in a culture that defined me differently than I had ever been defined. Later I learned the word for that-- as a white girl in American, my whiteness had never been a marker. I was marked by other things, but never race or culture. In Hawaii, I was able to perceive for the first time the existence of my whiteness, and my fluency in white American culture. This is an ungainly process-- and the reason so many white Americans kind of freak out when they move to Hawaii-- something they didn't even know about themselves is in fact a thing that defines them-- every thing they do, and how they perceive reality.

I thought a lot about race. I thought about American whiteness, and about my husband's biracial identity that was so rich and so challenging. He was a bridge for me into Hawaii culture and history-- my kids are 5th generation Hawaii born on his mother's side. He had Japanese and Okinawan and British ancestry, and generations of difficult and beautiful family history in Hawaii. His grandparents were the first people of Japanese descent to be married in the Hawaii Mormon temple. His great grandparents were plantation workers, sailors, and Japanese sandal makers. His grandmother Joyce Teruya, who we named our oldest daughter after, could make the most ono chicken katsu you could imagine, and my husband as a little kid would take it to the beach wrapped in wide ti leaves and eat it with salty fingers after throwing himself hard into the waves. His race put people at ease, allowed him access to the Hawaiian Paniolo culture he served as an ag extension agent, bought him a measure of grace while people got to know him. My race was an obstacle for me-- something I had to push through in order for people to get to know ME, rather than whatever assumptions they had about me. A good lesson for a well-meaning white girl.

Race in Hawaii went from something that seemed pretty clear: transplants vs. locals-- to something much more nuanced. Hawaii-born Japanese vs Native Hawaiian, Haole vs. Portuguese, Filipino vs. Puerto Rican, Haole transplant vs. tourist-- it turned out that all these roles and labels are actually permeable. I know people who identify as Hawaiian without a drop of Hawaiian blood. I know Hawaiians who define other ethnic Hawaiians as un-Hawaiian because of how they act, where they live, where they went to school. It's a muddle, but a fertile one. And in the end, not that crucial since everybody still marries each other, makes gorgeous children, passes on or drops tradition, and the days spin on.

Things that had simple at first became more complex-- as they would for anybody moving from their mid twenties to mid thirties. Parenting babies with a few clear needs became parenting kids with a myriad of challenging ones. Friends went from folks we ran into at playgroups to surrogate family, with lifelong love and unbelievable heartbreak. Our religion went from a source of strength to a source of pain. Our jobs went from post-college entry level to full time and promotions and tenure. My husband reinvented himself constantly, searched for meaning and scrabbling for relief from his depression.

He didn't find it. He just passed it along, exploded his pain on me and my girls who he left behind.

And now we're in Utah-- the land of my ancestors. I met strangers the other day on my walk back from the girls' school bus stop-- I had to stop and pat their dog. It turns out they are my step-mom's cousins. I've got a boomerang history here and ambivalent feelings about it.

I feel like a stranger in a familiar land, and I vacillate between wanting so settle in and get cozy and be easy and comfortable for the rest of my life, and wanting to run for it-- get someplace where I fit in better, where things feel less familiar but more safe.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Slow Motion Nuclear Disaster

I don't even know how to say it,
or what to say.

My husband died by suicide. He was at home on Kaua'i. I was visiting family on the mainland with the kids.

Thank god we weren't there when he did it.

Thank god we didn't see it. We didn't find him.

I called the police when I hadn't heard from him for 24 hours. He had seemed stressed, but okay. He sent me cute pictures of our cat, peeking out of a cloth grocery bag.

The police called me back at 1:30 am. I spent the night calling family and throwing up.

Two days later we were on the airplane, with my sisters, going back to.... what? Clean out the house, retrieve his (young, perfectly healthy, 37 year old) body from the hospital morgue, hold a memorial, say goodbye to the place where we lived for ten years, where my kids were born.

We had to leave our house-- it was on the UH ag station farm-- 150 acres of pasture, fruit trees, and a reservoir-- and we had a weekend to throw it all into a container-- mostly into a dumpster, actually-- and get it out of there.

I hope the whole place burns. I hope the whole place gets nuked from space. I am never, ever going back.

But, but, and yet.

My grandma kicked out her renters. We're living in her basement-- me and my three kids.

Did I mention I'd quit my job to stay home with my new baby? I had.

Also, life insurance doesn't pay out for suicides. Or at least Primerica doesn't.

So I've learned how to use food stamps, doubled at the farmers market, and yes sometimes I'm a welfare queen and I use my EBT card to buy Ben&Jerry's and italian grapefruit soda.

But-- we have a place to live. My grandma is a ray of sunshine. She's so good and kind and pure. The girls learned how to ride bikes-- they can ride to the bus stop. They go to an ordinary elementary school-- so dull and as predictable as the second hand on a clock after the ups and downs of our Hawaiian immersion charter school, with the constant field trips and adventures and heavy parental investment.

It's unbelievably bad.

The layers peel away, and it just gets stranger and stranger, and the story of my life-- of our lives-- is not the thing I thought it was. It's an eldrich horror, obeying no natural laws and defying the reality of our eyes.

But as horrors go, this is a slow motion crash and burn. We've landed at my grandmother's, in the idyllic neighborhood where my dad grew up, with a horse pasture and a neighborhood of feral cheerful kids.

We're okay. We're going to be okay.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Matt's Eulogy

After I wrote Matt's eulogy (that last post), I realized that Matt was my intended audience. That's the eulogy he would have loved to hear-- to be seen and understood in that way.
But then I realized-- he's not here. The eulogy needs to be for us left behind. And I was (still am) too shocked and angry to have it be for me-- a string of furious invective would probably not be appropriate for a memorial-- so I wrote this one instead. It's for the girls.
My dear girls, I want to tell you a little bit about your daddy.

Matt believed in Fun.
From the time he was a little kid, he loved to play and joke. As a kid he had fun playing baseball and football, boogie boarding and playing at the beach. As a grownup he loved to have fun with you guys, splashing like a spinner dolphin out of the water and buildings amazing Lego worlds with you. He would even listen to Katy Perry and dance in the livingroom with you. He liked grownup fun too, like museums and restaurants and travel, but You guys were the funnest, happiest thing in his life. Every time we fly kites, play frisbee, splash like dolphins, play Wolf Chess and run on a path we can remember how much fun we had together.

Did you know when I met him, he said his nickname was Dar, the Animal whisperer? He loved animals! He could turn even the grumpiest kitty into kitty butter, floppy and purring on his lap. He'd say kinda mean things to them in a cute voice, and they followed him around. All the cats on the station would trail along behind him when he walked out to the goats. And the goats! He would patiently observe then, and got to know every goat in his herd. He'd go lie down in the tall grass in the pasture and hang out with the goats. He milked them fastidiously and they were totally tame because he treated them so calmly. He loved every kind of animal, and knew they needed to be treated kindly and fairly, especially when they are under human care. We can remember him by taking good care of the animals around us.

Daddy believed in being brave. I think that's why he liked aikido so much, and why he loved to learn about the Warriors in his family tree. He was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in, especially if he thought he was protecting somebody weaker than him. He was brave because every time he went diving, he swam with sharks. He wasn't worried though-- he had a dream once where a moʻowahine in the form of a shark came and told him he was welcome. He was brave enough to swim in dangerous waves along rocky shores, and dive in the dark for lobsters. He climbed to the top of crumbling castles. He believed in being brave.

But just because you are a strong warrior, just mean you should brag about it. Matt believed in being humble. Too humble! He never told anybody when he won awards or prizes, he never showed off or bragged about the cool stuff he did. He was a really amazing guitar player but wouldn't play unless everyone was ignoring him. He could speak Japanese, he was 2nd Dan aikido black belt, he had traveled all over the world, he wrote poetry, he knew practically everything about history, he could cook gourmet meals, and he could run a marathon, no problem. But he would just say, meh, no big deal. He didn't think it made him better than anyone else. He believed in being humble.

Daddy was smart. And what that really means is that he tried new things. He always tried hard and kept trying. He'd find ways to fix his truck or build his fence, he'd invent ways of feeding the goats, he'd design experiments. He kept practicing his guitar and his small bagpipes. When he ran into problems with his work projects, he'd read books and articles about how to fix them. He tried and tried and tried. We can remember him whenever we learn something new, or try a new good thing.

The most important thing that Matt believed in was how much he loved you, my three perfect girls. He gave you the very best, purest, kindest, strongest, brightest and most beautiful parts of himself. He was the most important guide and helper when you were born. He carried you for thousands of hours and miles on his chest and back where you snuggled and slept. He read you stories from before you could understand words-- Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows, Narnia and the Hobbit. He kept you safe in rough oceans, he built elaborate sandcastles with you, he held your hands on long walks across the station, to pick grapefruit, starfruit, papaya and mountainapples or feed the goats. He took you to Tutu & Me preschool and helped you play pretend food and make puzzles. He carried you when you were tired on hikes, even when you so heavy and long that your feet knocked against the back of his knees. He made you lunch and took you to the school bus. He kept your drawings and pictures in his office so he could see them everyday. He wanted to show you the world-- he took you to pubs in Ireland to hear music and play dominos. He wished he could have taken you everywhere else for the rest of his life. But he was just too sick.

His sickness doesn't make his love any smaller. The love he had for our family was the biggest, brightest thing he had in his life. He wished he could have stayed in that love forever. But he couldn’t stay. These are the things, my girls, we need to remember from our Matt. We need to love and enjoy each other, play together, and keep being smart, brave and humble.

Now, we have to live without him. But we need to love each other and care for each other, and remember his love for us.

My Eulogy for Matt

Matt Eulogy
Draft #1

I was in labor with Rosie and I was beginning to panic. First baby, we had been assured that it would take days and days, and we had been out running errands in our little Honda Accord. But no-- She was coming into the world fast and hard, and I was sitting in the front seat of the car, totally unable to face going inside or going to the hospital. Matt coaxed me inside, helped me sit down at our kitchen table. The curtains had prints of vegetables on them, the light was orange and warm. He put his hands on my head and gave me a blessing. I felt calmed and fortified-- his steadiness and readiness carried me calmly through the rest of that labor-- he walked the labyrinth of birth with me and kept me grounded in the moment. He had a warm soul, and at his best when he was healing and guiding me.

A year or so later Matt and I went to Obon. The priest, in katakana English, gave a sermon. He said, “One day, the buddha was approached and asked, Teacher, is there life after death?  And in answer, the enlightened one said: A warrior is riding through the woods, and is suddenly struck by an arrow. As he falls to the ground, what does he do? Does he ask as he bleeds, who made this arrow? What bird gave the feather? Who fired the bow? What kind of tree was this arrow carved? No. He first tries to remove the arrow. That is the state of this mortal life. We cannot know the answers to these questions in this brief moment in the woods. How can we think about the next world, when our main task must be ending the suffering-- our own and others’-- in this world. This story stayed with both of us like an arrow in the heart. Matt came to focus on alleviating suffering-- rather than on the potentials of an unknown world. That’s not to say that Matt didn’t believe in a spiritual reality.

One day we went to the 88 Shrines in Lawai. We walked the hill past all of the miniature Buddhist shrines-- recreating the shrines of Kyushu. Matt was showing three year old Rosie the tiny stones houses with the worn Buddha figures inside. Some were clear little statues, some were no more that worn nubs. In some the Buddha was reduced to no more than pebbles. Rosie said, “No Buddha!” But Matt answered that no-- The rocks are Buddha too. And the trees, and the flowers, and the air… and everything. He believed that enlightenment, like the potential for nuclear frission, was in every atom of the natural world.

He was a defender of Nature-- animals, plants and birds-- and the human stewards who nurture them. He was the most expansive, the most thrilled walking over granite mountains, hiking to grand vistas. I fell in love with him hiking around the reservoir in the Moraga California hills, finding snakes and wild pears. In Maui we saw paniolo graffiti carved into rocks and heard whalesong high up on a ridge, in Utah we marveled at prehistoric creatures that could sleep for eons and come, delicately, back to life, in unlikely smears of rainwater in the desert. On Chausuyama in Japan we watched the first light of the year, and paid our respects to the kitsune rains and the tanuki tricksters. In nature, he could quiet his inner noise and breathe freely.

Mormon stories of humble rough-handed men endowed with the ability to bless others, Buddhist sensibilities about ending the suffering of the world, Shinto belief in the self-ness of stones, trees, places, and trees…. In Hawaii we saw Ho’ailona. We were invited to the navigational heiau Maka o Hule in Kohala to support the crew of the Hokule’a as they set out to sail by the stars to Japan. We were new, still strangers in a strange land. We stood in an enormous circle with many other guests, and a kahu offered a pule as the navigators made their way up the hill to the heiau. As they walked, an enormous double rainbow appeared over us. Matt and I were gobsmacked, but the Hawaiians around us were sanguine. Of course there was a giant rainbow during the pule they shrugged, there usually is at things like this.

In Hawaii, Matt was shaped by the immediacy of the spiritual world. A shark came to him as a bride in his dream, and after that sharks always accompanied him when he dove. Great winds blew down water towers over and over until a pig was buried under ti leaves on the site. He asked permission before going holoholo. On the big island he went right up to the lava and said the sense of enormity was the face of God. Or Goddess. He lost his breath in the contemplation of the destruction and creation and beauty and terror-- he wished he’d known what to chant or pray or sing.

He respected the Old Gods-- poured out a splash of cider onto the ground on the Welsh mountain top and wine onto Monte Marte. He ventured with caution into the standing stones, and approached the twisted gold neolithic treasures of Sutton Hoo-- that spooky Mabignogian Cauldron--with respect.

He spoke to the dead, like his beloved great-uncle Ken, who lived so vividly in Matt’s mind that the girls would would ask for stories about uncle Ken just to make Daddy cry. He researched Hikohichi Nagasawa’s impossible adventures-- shipwrecks and the San Francisco earthquake. He traced his ancestors across all the oceans-- maritime refugees, plantation workers, and appalachian folk singers like Mrs. Bostic whose voice recordings we found on ancient wax cylinders. He mined their stories relentlessly, even testing his DNA in an effort to understand who he was and where he came from.

I don’t know what there is after this life-- Matt’s reality was flesh and bone. He sweat and fought and learned. He labored mightily in the grasses and pastures, he said yes to the here-and-now experiences of travel and good food. He feasted on art-- the abstract and the home-hewn. He delighted in the grand humanity of history and the modern stupidity of low-comedy. He fought to alleviate the sufferings of others. Nothing could incite his ire like a misuse of public hew and cry. The homeless on our island, the hungry children, the marginalized. He respected the authority of old men on horses-- of artisans with battered hands.

I hope that with shedding his flesh and bone reality, he can find the true heart of the labrynth-- the raw power of the ocean, the lava-- the calm guidance of his blessings, the freedom and power of the open vista. And of course he lives on in us, as we revisit his paths and ways, and remember him.  

My Young Husband's Obituary

Matthew Henry Stevenson, of Wailua, Kauai, died unexpectedly at home on May 22, 2016. He was 37 years old. He was a cherished and admired father, friend, brother and son.

Matt was born in Washington, D.C. to William (Bill) Stevenson of Greenville, South Carolina, and Mildred Teruya of Waikapu, Maui. The family moved to the Bay Area when Matt was five. As a boy he loved the birds, lizards, grasses, oaks and cattle that populated the watersheds and hills around his home. He also loved the time he spent in Maui with his grandparents, Walter and Joyce Teruya, where he loved grandma’s lei garden, grandpa’s plantation days stories, and the family history that connected him to Japan and Okinawa. He spent several summers in England visiting his dad, and loved the castles, the moors and the Neolithic standing stones. These early experiences in nature put him on a path to the career he loved as a range scientist, and a life he loved in Hawaii, but as a citizen of the world.

Matt graduated from Miramonte High school in 1997. He attended BYU in Provo for one year before serving an LDS mission in Tokyo Japan. He loved the Japanese language and culture, and was proud to follow in his grandparents’ footsteps. Although his relationship with the Mormon church changed, he maintained a lifelong love of Japanese history, myth, literature and religion. Most importantly to Matt's life, he came to love Aikido. His practice of this martial art trained his body and guided his mind, and he excelled to the rank of 2nd Dan under sensei Wesley Shimokawa of Lihue Aiki Kai.

Matt graduated from BYU in Wildlife and Range Resources, minoring in Japanese and graduating with honors (2003). His favorite classes were his honors Art History and Shakespeare in Film. He became an insightful critic of media, loving museums and galleries, films and literature. Matt was a scientist with a poet's heart.

In 2003 he married Rebecca Anne Davis in Manti, Utah. They moved to Gunma, Japan, where they broadened their appreciation for travel and adventure, enjoying onsen, shrines, hole in the wall ramenya, quaint ryokan, museums and memorials around the country.

Matt and Becca completed masters degrees at UC Berkeley, Matt’s in Environmental Science, Policy and Management. In Berkeley they discovered gourmet alleyways and made lifelong friends in the dilapidated student housing and Berkeley Ward.

Matt and Becca then made the move to Hawaii in the spring of 2006, where Matt began work for the University of Hawaii agricultural extension service in Waimea (Kamuela), on the Big Island. He had amazing mentors in his career in extension, and was proud to be able to serve the ranchers and farmers of the state of Hawaii for ten years.

In 2007 Matt and Becca welcomed their first child, Roselani. In Waimea they raised chickens, lived entirely off of their garden and delighted in their precocious little blond daughter. They explored the island, impressed with the volcano, quieted by the haunted black lava fields of Kona and dripping Hilo laua’e, and healed by the dryland rainforests on Puʻuwaʻawaʻa. Matt loved and respected the Paniolo culture that shaped the unique Hawaiian cultural and physical environment: the Hawaiian rodeo, the slack key guitar, the windswept plains at the foot of Mauna Kea, the green puʻu of Waimea, the tangled ohia and hala overlooking the black-sand valleys.

In 2009 they moved to Kauai, where Matt became the Kauai county livestock extension agent and served the livestock community of Kauai and Maui, while continuing to collaborate on the Big Island and beyond, into Guam, Saipan and other pacific islands. He worked with the 4-H kids and conducted research at the Kauai Agricultural Research farm, where he lived with his family. He was also working on his PhD in Range Science and Wildland Resources from Utah State University, studying tannins, pasture weeds, animal management and ungulate health, up until the time of his death.

In 2010, Maile was born in Wailua. Matt was a proud and tender daddy, deeply loved by his little girls. He took them to playgroups and cheered at their soccer games and cried proudly at their May Days. In 2015 Likolehua was born at home. He was a steady and supportive birth partner, and this last baby was welcomed in love.

Matt enjoyed the travels that took him around the world, with his work and his family. Everywhere he went he became a student of the history and culture. The Marianas, New Zealand, Canada, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Holland, France, England, Wales, Ireland, as well as across the US. He loved the West-- the desert scrubland and alpine meadows, the Maynard Dixon colorscape and the endless ozone-blue bowl of the Western sky.

Matt was passionate about his family history, and felt a strong connection to his ancestors--the plantation families, the sailor chef, the shipwrecked, the brave veterans, the difficult, the troubled and the astounding history of his family. His great-uncle Ken died in Rome in the Japanese-American 442nd, and his charm and handsome local-boy ukulele and motorcycle innocence reached across the years and particularly touched Matt. He was a student of warriors, fascinated with their humanity and strength. He too was a warrior, battling for his life in spite of terrible pain.

Matt was a perceptive historian, a wry social commentator, a thoughtful and capable music maker and appreciator. He played NIN and Joni Mitchell and Tannahill Weavers on the guitar, and serenaded his goats in the far pastures of the farm with his small bagpipes. He blended and expressed a unique fusion of his Japanese, Scottish, and Hawaiian roots, equally at home in a kilt or an aikido gi, at a Ceilidh or an Obon, in flip-flops or cowboy boots, playing bagpipes or slack-key guitar. He was a gentle, deep-thinking, loving soul, taken from us too soon.

Matt is survived by his wife Becca, daughters Rosie Jo, Maile, and Liko, his mother Mildred, his father and stepmother Bill and Wendy, his brother Andrew, father in law and stepmother in law Mark and Andi, sisters in law Liz, Katie, and Zina, and brothers in law Xan and Duc, and many other devoted in-laws and extended family.  He leaves behind countless friends from his home town, from college days, from his time in Japan, from his professional life, and from his aikido dojo.

Matt had a beautiful life and was profoundly loved. He fought the disease that killed him for many many years, through terrible heartache and pain. He was a fierce defender of the disadvantaged and the underserved.

None of us will forget him-- he seared brightly across our lives. We will tell his children about his wit, his hard work, his respect for history, his music. We will remember the meals shared, the hikes over hills and crags on pacific islands and Western peaks. We will carry him with us when we walk those places again.

A memorial service for Matt will be held on Saturday June 4, 2016 at Kauai Community College in Lihue, Kauai, at 3 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations to support Matt’s family may be made at www.crowdrise.com/matt-and-becca-ohana-fund Or via PayPal to KawaikiniEnglish@gmail.com. Please send recollections and memories for the family to the same email address.