As a longtime subscriber to The Maui News, and having worked with senior citizens for nearly 30 years, I long ago developed the habit of checking the obituaries immediately after reading the lead story on the front page. And now that I am of — ahem — a certain age, I just glance at the headlines, then turn to page A4 before returning to the news of the day.
Last Sunday’s paper contained nearly three pages of death and funeral notices, and I saw more than half a dozen familiar names. Maui being the tight-knit community that it is, I had already been informed of most; still, seeing the announcements in print triggered twinges of grief and bittersweet memories.
The obituary of Paul Patrick Edward Robinson might have caught your eye even if you didn’t know him, as it was subtitled “Died Of Terminal Healthiness” and included a photograph of a robust white-haired gentleman bearing a walking staff and a mischievous smile. The text began, “As in any human story, joy and pain, love and sorrow, have marked the years of the deceased’s life.” What followed was a fascinating and entertaining synopsis of this particular human’s story, written by Patrick himself.
As he stated, Patrick “left no child, no dog or cat and very little of anything else — except for some cherished friendships and the memory a Life Journey that was well-traveled.” Through my late husband, Barry, I was fortunate to be one of those friends. We met over 30 years ago, when Patrick was managing the Coast Gallery in Wailea.
The whole time I knew him, he was immersed in the world of fine art, but his prior work experience was unbelievably varied. His obituary listed some of his previous incarnations: Wyoming ranch cowboy, Marine Corps officer, Catholic monk, psychotherapist, Ashtanga Yogi and more.
He didn’t mention that he was also a wedding officiant; perhaps because he only performed two, maybe three, marriage ceremonies. One, on May 1, 1989, was to unite Barry and me on a Spreckelsville beach. That was the same year in which Patrick moved to Hana to open the Hana Coast Gallery in partnership with Carl Lindquist and Gary Koeppel.
Patrick fell in love with the people and the pace of Hana. Eventually, he established a routine that included a weekly supply run to town and an overnight stay with Barry and me. A few years later, when Tom and Janice Fairbanks opened the Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono, it became Patrick’s preferred place of lodging. I understood, of course, their place was much nicer than ours was, but I missed our weekly dinners and, especially, our late-night talk story sessions.
Whether we discussed politics, philosophy or personal matters, Patrick’s input was always enjoyable and often enlightening. He was eloquent but never pompous or stuffy. His writing was the same, both in personal notes and professional publications.
Patrick chose to retire in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, after years of researching healthful locations worldwide. Moving there in 2008, he described it as being much like Hana, “with sweet-natured gentle people, good weather and beautiful surroundings,” but far less expensive. As he wrote, “he had been perfectly content to be an unremarkable gringo while living in the Andes Mountains.”
Last month, when a mutual friend informed me of Patrick’s death, I retrieved a note that he had given me along with a bud vase for my birthday, almost exactly 24 years ago. Written in his distinctive hand on a rolled-up piece of parchment paper, it said, “Blessings on your birthday . . . PEACE, JOY and boundless growth in the understanding of your way.” The message was deeply appreciated then, and even more so now.
His obituary ended with the admonition that “there should be no grieving or mourning of his passing, no marking of the place of his ashes . . . Now, finally, may his Higher Self merge with the Purest Cosmic Light and enter unto that dimension called “The Elsewhere Place” until Patrick’s next incarnation. He still has a LOT to learn!”
As do we all. Mahalo nui loa, Patrick, for the lessons.
* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.