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I was raised in upstate New York, closer to Canada than New York City, in a small town not far from the village that inspired the American Christmas fantasy film It’s a Wonderful Life. After high school, I was restless and eager to see the world. On December 6, 1989, I said goodbye to my mother at the airport in Syracuse, and flew alone to Hawaii (her last words to me were “Give ‘em Hell”). These were the days before the internet; my expectations were not entirely clear. I hadn’t been to Hawaii before. I moved there, more-or-less, on a whim. There was no one to meet me at the airport in Hawaii. I didn’t know where I would spend my first night. I was 19 and oblivious, but the world was my oyster. When I stepped off the plane in Hilo on Hawaii’s Big Island, it was raining, and it felt like a Baptism. I immediately felt at home. I spent the bulk of my adult life in Hawaii, nearly 20 years.

You won’t meet anyone who enjoys exploring Hawaii more than me. I bought a four-wheel-drive Jeep soon after arriving. I visited mountains, valleys and remote beaches that most tourists never see. I have scars from Kilauea – the Big Island’s active volcano. For a while, I worked at a flagship Hyatt resort where I met celebrities and swam with dolphins. I earned my pilot’s license in Hawaii, sometimes visiting five islands in one day. I could write a book about everything I’ve seen and done in Hawaii. It was crazy and magical and twisted, and even if I told you the truth, you wouldn’t believe half of it. And I was young enough and stupid enough to enjoy every damn bit of it.

By the time I was 39, I had everything. I was married to a woman I loved and trusted. We lived in a million-dollar house in Hawaii with ocean views. I had a beautiful, amazing little girl named Morey. We had another little girl on the way. I loved being a dad. I was present when both of my daughters were born in Hawaii. When my ex-wife went into labor with Morey, I didn’t even stop for red lights on my way to the hospital. She was born 10 weeks premature and it nearly broke our hearts (I joked that her life’s motto is Ready or not, here I come!).

I taught Morey to read, to take pictures, to germinate palm tree seeds, to make pizza, to appreciate practical jokes and sunsets. I started teaching her LOGO (a simple computer programming language that teaches basic algorithm design). I took her flying, hiking, surfing, cycling, horseback riding and took her on daddy/daughter weekends to ride in a submarine.

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Morey Alexandra Becker, Sophia Zander Grace Becker