I stretched out on a piece of furniture with my eyes closed in a waiting room just down the hall from Ian’s hospital room. From the TV mounted just above my head, I could hear the NBC commentator calling what must have been an exciting swimming event at the Rio Summer Olympics. Our family had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Summer Olympics, a beloved event in the Coronas household.
But now, I didn’t care.
Today, it was simply meaningless.
Surrounded by family members who came (daily) with food, hugs and disbelief, I tried to rest my fatigued body and soul — if even just for a moment.
We were gathered down the hall because Ian’s room was full. Family and friends came. It seems like they all came…long-time family friends, friends from Maryknoll School, University of Hawaii, T&C Surf, Xerox Hawaii, prayer warriors from church, and, of course, friends from the downhill skate community.
I worried that Ian might be overtaxed by all the visitors. The struggle was absolutely real, as he fought major bouts of nausea and clung to his pink hospital-provided container – just in case. His legs continued to malfunction and a walker was required for a trip to the bathroom located 10 feet away. Still, it appeared that the visits were helping Ian’s spirits. He was touched by each and every family member, friend, and co-worker who came to visit.
Ian was resting quietly on Monday afternoon when world-renowned Big-Wave Rider Aaron Gold and Joel Centeio, one of Hawaii’s most beloved pro surfers, walked into the room. It took just a second to register. Then, Ian’s face lit up. No introductions were required. Ian knew these guys. He maneuvered his bed position and soon they were talking surf – big surf, small surf, surf around the world. And, they were talking about God.
Aaron shared about his deep faith and his purpose in life. These were not just any surfers, these were mighty men of God. These Gifts of God were arranged by two of Ian’s kindhearted nurses, Gina and Monica, who knew all about Ian’s passion for the ocean. The incredible visit ended with Aaron, Joel and Ian in prayer.
Little did Ian know that Aaron and Joel were the first two of nearly 30 surfers who would visit him that week. His cousin Kellen would even arrange for World Tour bodyboarder champion Jeff Hubbard to visit.
I can’t tell you about every exciting group that visited and how they lifted Ian’s spirit. But, I can tell you that each one brought light and love into Ian’s world that week. Aaron, Kawai Lindo and others remained in touch with him when he returned home on hospice. Ian was touched and inspired. These guys are really, really good people who do stuff like this behind the scenes on an ongoing basis. I’ve included their names at the end of this post.
Gary Kewley of Hawaii’s Surf News Network (SNN) wrote a subsequent article about Ian and the surfers’ visits. The story appeared on the home page of the SNN website, as well as in MidWeek, one of Hawaii’s most widely distributed print publications.
Sometimes I wonder what was going through Ian’s mind when he read that MidWeek article. First, there was all the stoke. John John Florence is in one of those photos for goodness’ sake. And, then, there was a profound sense of gratefulness; he told me as much about that. But then, surely, there was a stark reminder that things were very serious.
As you can imagine, after the story appeared, Ian’s cell phone blew up with texts and calls from those who didn’t even know he was sick.
I remember Ian telling me that the son of a co-worker texted him that he was inspired by Ian. Ian didn’t get it. “I didn’t do anything,” he said. “I just got sick.”
But, Ian, you did so much more than that.
You taught us what grace looks like in unimaginably difficult circumstances.
You taught us how to laugh when there was very little to laugh about.
You taught us how to grow closer to God – and not push away – when bad news came…and came…and came again.
You taught us how to live and die with dignity, and with love in your heart.
I’ve heard it said that when the tough times come, what’s really inside a person spills out. What spilled out of you was love and kindness. That’s who you always were.
We are forever grateful to all who came and showered Ian with love and kindness when he needed it most.
With Heartfelt Thanks to Hawaii’s Surf Community visitors: Gary Kewley, Kawai Lindo, Aaron Gold , Joel Centeio, Kala Alexander, Makuakai Rothman, Nick Mita, John-John Florence, Nathan Florence, Mahina Garcia, Ross Williams, Dusty Payne, Mark Healy, Gregg Nakamura, Jason Shibata, Freddy Patacchia, Kaiborg Garcia, Dave Riddle, Dave Wassel, Billy Kemper, Kekoa Bacalso, Tom Dosland, Kaito Kino, Cole Yamakawa, Kylen Yamakawa, Brent Bielmann, Nathan Fletcher, Kona Johnson, Jeff Hubbard, and anyone who may have very inadvertently been missed on this list AND everyone else who prayed for and supported Ian.