Every act of aloha counts. Click here to DONATE to the MAUI RELIEF Fund.            

The Man With Nine Lives And View Of The Afterlife

Married life is a bliss for Roy and Irene Nagahara, pictured here with their dog Bento at their Princess Brides shop on Kapiolani Boulevard PHOTO COURTESY S. SAGISI

Married life is a bliss for Roy and Irene Nagahara, pictured here with their dog Bento at their Princess Brides shop on Kapiolani Boulevard PHOTO COURTESY S. SAGISI

Very few people make it to the pearly gates and live to talk about their experience.

Moanalua resident Roy Nagahara is known as the man with nine lives who has cheated death multiple times, but has been faithful to his wife of 42 years, Irene, by persistently choosing life over death after a series of health challenges.

His latest episode involved facing a heavenly messenger on the Fourth of July. The experience was so sacred, he can’t share details. If his life were a movie, Roy would title it, “Till Death Do Us Part.” This summer, Roy suffered a pancreatic infection that spread to his stomach.

“The doctor told us we had two options,” explains Irene. “The first was to treat him with medication and let him die. The second was surgery to clean out all the infectious substances. But because Roy had a heart attack en route to the hospital, the odds of survival were very slim.”

The doctor told her he would do his best, but no guarantees.

“I had a lot of pain. I was yelling and screaming. Pain was so unbearable that I wanted to die,” says Roy. So he chose surgery.

Facing death’s door is not new to Roy. In April of 2011, then age 66, he was battling deadly pneumonia.

“The doctor told us he also suffered two minor strokes that we were not even aware of. While in hospice care, my husband instructed the medical team that should anything happen, he did not want to be hooked up to a resuscitator. Roy’s condition made little improvement, so he agreed to be on the machine for comfort,” says Irene.

His heartbeat slowed further, and his health took a turn for the worse. He had lost his will to fight and requested to have the resuscitator yanked.

“Roy understood that having the tubes removed meant that time was of the essence, as his lungs continued to deteriorate,” says his devoted wife.

It was time to say goodbye. He was now facing the end of his life (again), so the couple called on their family members for the final farewell. On Monday, April 16, 2011, at about 1:15 p.m., doctors pulled out the tubes and Roy shut his eyes ready to face his maker.

“About 10 minutes later, I opened my eyes, looked at each of my family members standing around me. I smiled and said, ‘Eh, I’m still alive.’ It was a miracle,” says the death-defying survivor.

Now here’s the interesting part: Roy claims that he saw a silver object resembling the Pac-Man face on the floor next to his bed. He asked God, if he picked the object up, would he live? A voice answered, “Yes, you will.” Roy then responded, “Then I want to have it.”

Roy was released Friday, April 22, 2011, so he could live out the rest of his days at home. Irene has a thriving wedding business, Princess Brides, on Kapiolani Boulevard. Roy takes great joy in helping beautiful brides-to-be select their wedding dresses and begged Irene to allow him to hang out at the shop instead of dying lonely at home. Irene could not afford to take off from their only livelihood, so she made arrangements for Roy to join her at the bridal shop during work hours. Roy continued his hobby of helping the women pick the right dresses for their upcoming nuptials. Clients cheered him up, and his bride of then-39 years nursed Roy back to health until the “all clear” signal was issued in order for the Nagaharas to end the hospice program.

Irene says Roy is blessed to have a series of second chances at life, which stems back to their fifth wedding anniversary. They were enjoying a romantic dinner at John Dominis restaurant in Kakaako. Roy rarely consumes alcohol, but on this special night he indulged himself with a margarita. After four sips of his drink, his eyes started to roll back and he was gone.

“He went limp. I shook him, called out his name, tried to get him to wake up and snap out of it,” says Irene. Roy was apparently allergic to alcohol.

The entire episode lasted about 60 to 90 seconds. It seemed like two hours to Roy, and he says during that time he went to the other side.

“While I was out, I saw this super bright light, and there was this tunnel that I was being drawn to. I had a warm, indescribable feeling. I had no fears, and thought to myself, ‘I have gone to heaven.’ I heard a voice utter the words, ‘You must go back to Irene,’ then I woke up,” says Roy. “At that moment, I knew that death was not the end, but just the beginning of something beautiful and wonderful.”

Today, you can see Roy riding around on his scooter, taking Bento, his dog, for his walks. Roy continues to be a father figure to their clientele at Princess Brides, as women of all ages stream through the shop. He sits in his scooter giving them great fashion advice so that they can look elegant and their very best on the day they recite their “I do’s.” To him, the standard wedding vow, “Till death do us part,” doesn’t mean the end of physical life. Death, to Roy, means the beginning of the eternities, and he believes that his vows to Irene will extend beyond this earthly life.