About the commencement of the year 1818, Obookiah became seriously indisposed, and was obliged wholly to abandon his studies. A physician was called, and speedy attention paid to his complaints.
It was soon found that his disease was the typhus fever; and a thorough course of medicine was commenced, which after one or two weeks appeared to check the progress of the disorder, and confident expectations were entertained of his recovery.
Hope continued to be cherished until it became evident that his strength was wasting, and that his constitution, naturally strong, was giving way to the violence of the disease, which had taken fast hold of him, and had not been essentially removed.
Notwithstanding the unremitted care and the skill of his attending physician, and the counsel of others called to consult with him, the kindest and most judicious attentions of the family into which he had fallen, and the universal solicitude of his surrounding friends, he continued to decline …
In this last lingering sickness, the christian character of Obookiah was advantageously exhibited. His patience, cheerfulness, resignation to the will of God, gratitude for the kindness of his friends, and benevolence, were particular subjects of notice and conversation to those who attended him during this interesting period.
His physician said of him that ‘he was the first patient whom he had ever attended through a long course of fever, that had not in some instances manifested a greater or less degree of peevishness and impatience.’
Mrs. S. in whose family he was confined, and who devoted her attention exclusively to the care of him, observed, that ‘this had been one of the happiest and most profitable periods of her life …
… that she had been more than rewarded for her cares and watchings by day and night, in being permitted to witness his excellent example, and to hear his godly conversation.’
By this friend a part of his observations and answers, particularly within a few of the last days of his sickness, were committed to writing; and are as follows:
To one of his countrymen, as he entered the room in the morning, after he had passed a night of suffering, he said, ‘I almost died last night. It is a good thing to be sick, S , we must all die—and ‘tis no matter where we are.’
Being asked by another ‘Are you afraid to die?’ he answered, ‘No, I am not.’ A friend said to him, ‘I am sorry to find you so very sick’ – he replied, ‘Let God do as he pleases.’
He appeared very affectionate to all, especially his countrymen. He insisted on some one of them being with him continually; would call very earnestly for them if they were out of his sight; and would be satisfied only with this, that they were gone to eat or to rest. To one of them he said, ‘W- I thank you for all you have done for me; you have done a great deal; but you will not have to wait on me much more, I shall not live.’
To another, ‘My dear friend S-, you have been very kind to me; I think of you often; I thank you; but I must die, G- , and so must you. Think of God, G- , never fail.’
To another, ‘You must stay; perhaps I finish off this forenoon. How much God has done for me and for you!’
The day before he died, ‘after a distressing night, and a bewildered state of mind, he appeared to have his reason perfectly, and requested that his countrymen might be called.’
After they came in he inquired several times for one of them who was absent, and for whom he had no hope; and said, ‘I have not seen him much – I shan’t see him – I want to talk to him.’
When the rest had seated themselves around his bed, he addressed them most feelingly in his native language, as long as his strength would permit.
As much of the address as could be recollected, was afterwards written in English by one of his countrymen, and was essentially as follows : –
‘My dear countrymen, I wish to say something to you all – you have been very kind to me – I feel my obligation to you – I thank you. And now, my dear friends, I must beseech you to remember that you have got to follow me.
Above all things, make your peace with God – you must make Christ your friend – you are in a strange land – you have no father – no mother to take care of you when you are sick – but God will be your friend if you put your trust in him.
He has raised up friends here, for you and for me – I have strong faith in God – I am willing to die when the voice of my Saviour call me hence – I am willing, if God design to take me.
But I cannot leave you without calling upon the mercy of God to sanctify your souls and fit you for Heaven. When we meet there we shall part no more.
Remember, my friends, that you are poor – it is by the mercy of God that you have comfortable clothes, and that you are so kindly supported. You must love God – I want to have you make your peace with God.
Can’t you see how good God is to you? God has done great deal for you and for me. Remember that you have got to love God, or else you perish for ever.
God has given his Son to die for you—I want to have you love God very much. I want to talk with you by and by—my strength fails – I can’t now – I want to say more’.
As death seemed to approach, Mrs. S. said to him, ‘Henry, do you think you are dying?’ He answered, ‘Yes, ma’am’ – and then said. ‘Mrs. S. I thank you for your kindness.’
She said, ‘I wish we might meet hereafter.’ He replied, ‘I hope we shall’ – and taking her hand, affectionately bid her farewell.
Another friend taking his hand, told him that he ‘must die soon.’ He heard it without emotion, and with a heavenly smile bade him his last adieu.
He shook hands with all his companions present, and with perfect composure addressed to them the parting salutation of his native language, ‘Alloah o‘e.’ – My love be with you.
But a few minutes before he breathed his last, his physician said to him, ‘How do you feel now, Henry?’ He answered. ‘Very well – I am not sick – I have no pain – I feel well.’
The expression of his countenance was that of perfect peace. He now seemed a little revived, and lay in a composed and quiet state for several minutes.
Most of those who were present, not apprehending an immediate change, had seated themselves by the fire.
No alarm was given, until one of his countrymen who was standing by his bed-side, exclaimed, ‘Obookiah’s gone.’ (ʻŌpūkahaʻia died February 17, 1818 – 200-years ago.)
All sprang to the bed. The spirit had departed – but a smile, such as none present had ever beheld – an expression of the final triumph of his soul, remained upon his countenance. (All above is directly from Memoirs of Obookiah)
“A few months after his death a book appeared in New England – a thin, brown-covered volume of a hundred small pages. It told, in his own words and the words of those who had known him the story of the boy’s life and death.”
“The printer who set the type, struck off the sheets and bound them together did not know it, but that book was to launch a ship and a movement that was to transform Hawai‘i.” (Albertine Loomis’ Introduction in Memoirs of Obookiah)
“Memoirs of Henry Obookiah by Edwin W Dwight is the story of a young Hawaiian man from 19th century Hawai’i who lived for only 26 years, and yet whose brief existence changed the course of a nation and the people of Hawai‘i.” (Lyon)
Ōpūkaha’ia, inspired by many young men with proven sincerity and religious fervor of the missionary movement, had wanted to spread the word of Christianity back home in Hawaiʻi; his book inspired missionaries to volunteer to carry his message to the Hawaiian Islands.
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) from the northeast United States, set sail on the Thaddeus for the Hawaiian Islands.