Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, May 10, 1999

Tuinei death more
tragic because he was
on his way home

THE worst part about this job is writing obituaries.

Whether it's about a young athlete or a retired one, it's tough to do.

While doing yardwork last week, I thought about Mark Tuinei.

About a big man with a bigger heart who was supposed to be on his way to the airport last Thursday instead of the morgue.

Tuinei was supposed to be coming home. While that fact was glossed over in many of the mainland news accounts, people here understood the deeper implication.

It just added to the sadness of his death.

Hawaii is such a special place. For so many, it takes a great deal of sacrifice to stay here when it would be easier and cheaper to live elsewhere.

For many who have left, the goal is to come back someday. A keiki o ka aina never truly leaves.

Oh, to be so close and yet so far. To have that dream in hand only to have it vanish forever.

WHILE digging around in the backyard, it got me thinking. What exactly do we leave behind when we die? What can we hope to?

Under the weeds, there was a part of a plastic toy and a well-chewed tennis ball. They had meaning and purpose just a few years ago.

But the little boy who played with the toy is now a teen-ager. And the ashes of the dog who once played with the tennis ball are buried under the Norfolk pine.

Life is too short not to leave a mark. Even if it's just a shallow dent in the ground where a palm tree once stood.

When someone who is younger than you dies, it makes you stop and think. And wonder why. And wonder when it will be your turn.

Tuinei was only 39. My youngest brother's age.

It made me feel old.

But while in Provo with the Hawaii men's volleyball team two weeks ago, another friend passed away. Gordon Awana was 69. My mother's age.

It made me feel young.

But more than anything else, these two deaths have made me feel sad. Over the good-byes and thank yous not said.

I didn't know Tuinei. I wish I had.

I hadn't seen Awana in a while. I regret that, too.

EVERYTHING is supposed to have a purpose. A death of a friend, I guess, reminds us of our own mortality.

And maybe the purpose is to shake us up a little. To make us realize that tomorrow may not come. To get us to live today without regret.

It's so easy to take things for granted like friendships and the love of family members. We expect them to be there every morning when we wake up.

Maybe we shouldn't. Friends and loved ones are gifts, not givens.

We can only wonder where our place is in this cosmic garden.

What part do we all play? And what is our purpose?

I guess the most we can ask is to be remembered fondly. To have someone notice when we are gone.

And to be missed.

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter.
Her column appears weekly.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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