LIHU‘E — It was an event so insignificant to members of the media that only two showed up.
The message was from Bruce Fehring, the North Shore real-estate professional whose daughter, grandson, and others remain missing after the Kilauea flash flooding earlier this week.
But one particular sentence in the message, read by Gina Kaulukukui, bereavement coordinator for Kaua‘i Hospice, had tremendous impact on her.
“We especially appreciate the diligence and determination of all those who continue to search for the missing, and the kind assistance of the personnel at Kaua‘i Hospice, for which we will be forever grateful,” wrote Bruce Fehring.
That simple statement gave Kaulukukui added strength necessary to help her return yesterday to Kilauea to continue offering hope and support to searchers, family members, members of cleanup crews, and others working in nasty conditions on behalf of others, she said.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re not doing enough, and then you get a letter like Bruce’s,” and realize what’s being done has an impact, she said.
In between the press conference and returning to Kilauea to be of physical and emotional assistance there, Kaulukukui also attended a funeral Friday.
The eternal optimist in her encourages people to see the “gift out of tragedy,” which in this case is the “wonderful camaraderie of the community.”
Officials like those at Starbucks, Big Save, and many others, have stepped up and offered goods and services “for as long as it takes, and it’s a privilege to be a part of that,” she said.
Getting back to the situation in Kilauea, Kaulukukui was asked by a reporter how family members are coping with the tragedy.
“As best as they can under the circumstances,” she replied, explaining the uncertainty of not knowing if the family members and friends are dead or alive, or if they will ever be found.
“I call that fine line hope. Hope that they’ll be found alive, and hope that they’ll be found at all,” she said.
That “limbo” right now is unavoidable, and for now stalls the need to begin the “very important healing process,” she said.
Kaulukukui, a child and parent, talked about what the parents and grandparents of those missing are feeling. “No parent should ever have to outlive their child.”
About Bruce Fehring’s request for privacy, and the fact that the statement she read indicates this will be his only public statement, she said, “when they’re ready, they’ll reach out.
“When someone dies, it’s like the mom is birthing the loved one out of this world, and they need the same kind of respect and privacy” as people would give them in the birthing process, she said.
“Kaua‘i Hospice officials feel blessed to have been able to provide emotional support to the families, friends, rescue personnel, and community members grieving the loss of loved ones due to the recent dam break,” said Liana Soong, Kaua‘i Hospice development and community liaison.
“We are especially grateful to the family members who have allowed us to be their calm, reassuring presence in this time of great sadness and uncertainty,” Soong added.
“With great appreciation, we are releasing this statement, and ask that you be respectful of the family at this difficult time.
“Our jobs are never easy, but the trust we gain from the community makes it worthwhile. Today, we have been entrusted by the Fehring ‘ohana to release the following personal statement,” said Soong.
The statement, signed by Bruce Fehring, was read by Kaulukukui:
“On behalf of the Fehring ‘ohana, I wish to extend our heartfelt sympathy to the families and friends of those who were staying at our home on Wailapa Road in Kilauea, and who were, along with three members of our immediate family, apparently swept away by the massive wall of water which resulted from the failure of the Ka Loko Reservoir dam.
“While our personal loss from this horrific event is devastating, we recognize that it is no greater a tragedy than others are experiencing at this time. We extend our sincere mahalo to those who have surrounded us with their blessings, support and understanding.
“This will be our only public announcement, and we ask for the cooperation of all in respecting our privacy at this time and during the trying weeks and months ahead.
“Mahalo nui loa, Bruce Fehring.”
Kaulukukui told a story of responding early Tuesday morning to the tragedy, and coming across a County of Kaua‘i employee, offering him a bottle of water and some kind words.
The man responded that he had been on duty for 14 hours, and Kaulukukui was the first one to stop and ask him how he was doing, and offering him anything to eat or drink.
He appreciated the gesture, she said.
It’s important to make sure no one is forgotten or overlooked in events such as these, she added, so that “they feel connected to what’s going on.”
Her job includes trying to help meet the needs of members of the families of those missing, whether that means holding hands or providing other support, and providing support for others, including those who have brought search dogs to look for those missing.
The mission of Kaua‘i Hospice is to ensure the highest quality of life possible for individuals and their families facing a life-threatening illness; to provide bereavement support to individuals; and to promote an understanding of hospice services.
For more information about Kaua‘i Hospice, call Soong, 245-7277.
- Paul C. Curtis, associate editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org.