COURTESY OF CLIFTON ONAGA
The Onaga family -- Clifton, Sharnell, Rachel, Kaila and baby Sarah -- posed for a photo last Christmas. Sharnell died of leukemia on April 3. CLICK FOR LARGE
A mother's final gifts make Dad even more thankful today
LAST YEAR, Father's Day was extra-special for me. My wife and I had learned not long before that she was expecting our third child. With two beautiful daughters already, a wonderful family, great friends, good jobs and a comfortable home, my Father's Day would be perfect.
Then we found out Sharnell was sick. It was during a routine pregnancy visit that the doctor noticed something unusual. When the tests came back saying Sharnell had an aggressive form of leukemia, we were sure there had been a mistake. The doctors advised Sharnell to abort the baby so they could begin immediate chemotherapy. They told us that delaying treatment could mean the difference between life and death. Life or death. My wife had no illusions about what that meant, but she made her choice from a different perspective that Father's Day one year ago.
It's been a year like no other. There were days I wanted to hold back the hands of the clock so our family could spend just a little more time together laughing, talking or just holding each other. Other days just seemed to drag on endlessly, full of needles, tears and pain. But through it all, Sharnell and I felt more loved, more cared for and more grateful for what we had than ever before.
On behalf of Sharnell, myself and our three daughters, Kaila, Rachel and Sarah, I'd like to offer a sincere "thank you." I could never list everyone individually, but I would like to name a few in no particular order, except the first.
Thanks to our heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, without whom Sharnell and I would have felt hopeless and lost.
Thank you to Sharnell's family and my family, who were there for us before, during and after her battle -- especially our moms, Jane and Marilyn; mahalo to Pastor John Honold, the staff and members of Hope Chapel Kapolei for their prayers, fasting and many acts of kindness; thanks to Pipeline Cafe and the countless volunteers, donors and those who attended our November fundraiser for Sharnell; and to the Perry and Price radio show. We appreciate the generous help received from Soroptimist International of Honolulu and First Hawaiian Bank in setting up and administering the accounts for Sharnell's medical bills and the children's education fund.
Mahalo to the wonderful doctors, nurses and staff of the Queen's Medical Center, Kapiolani Hospital and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Thanks to Roy Yonashiro and the staff of the Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry as well as to the Blood Bank of Hawaii.
My heartfelt thanks to Cissy Boyer, Gil Tam, Jimmy Kunihiro and Steve Crain; to my "family" in the construction and trucking industry; to Gov. Linda Lingle and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona for their support of National Bone Marrow Awareness Month and for their kind words of comfort and condolence; to the staff and management of Mililani Memorial Park and Mortuary; and to the people of Hawaii for their generous outpouring of love and aloha.
Finally, a very special mahalo to Hawaii's news media. Lots of people criticize the media for reporting only bad news, but when it came to Sharnell's story, not only did our local media cover it with sensitivity and compassion, they made it possible for us to get the word out about the importance of signing up for the bone marrow registry and cord blood donations, let people know about the fundraiser, kept people informed on Sharnell's condition and provided closure with moving tributes. Sharnell truly considered some of the media who interviewed her as dear friends.
This year, Father's Day is extra-special to me. I have three beautiful daughters now. And even though I know it will be a challenge to raise them without their wonderful mother at my side, I will always be thankful to Sharnell for the two gifts of life that she gave since last Father's Day -- baby Sarah's and her own.
Editor's note: Sharnell Onaga died on April 3. She was 38 years old.
Clifton Onaga lives in Kapolei.