The Hawaiian word for “family” is ohana. To people from Hawaii, family isn’t limited to blood relations. Ohana extends to long-time intimate associates, family friends, cousins of cousins of cousins of cousins. Ohana is revered, cherished, treasured.
If you’re lucky enough to be part of someone’s ohana you have a bond for life.
Earlier this year my cousin died. A young man, barely 50, his untimely passing rattled the ohana. Well-educated, career focused, hard working, his death made no sense. In that confusion the wound of loss slowly heals.
Six months after his death, his mother arranged a Celebration of Life to honor her son, a chance for the ohana to remember him fondly, then say goodbye.
Plumeria and maile leaf leis lined a table filled with placards of his accomplishments. Photos of Cousin with his father, his mother, his brother. Remembrances of happier days gone by.
Prayers. Hymns. Hulas. The large auditorium was filled with table after table after table of ohana dressed in Aloha attire – a communion of souls in attendance to commemorate his life.
While his Uncle delivered the eulogy pictures flashed in my mind of the babe-in-arms attending my wedding forty something years ago; the toddler bouncing in his crib, refusing to go to sleep when company came to call (such a fun-loving, cute kid); the baseball player in his high school production of Damn Yankees; the dinner companion at a family gathering offering me a tasty sushi because he knew I loved them. Those moments that happen in all our lives . . . that we don’t notice . . . that we take for granted . . . that we don’t realize passes like vapors through our days and knits the fabric of a relationship with those we love.
A chorus of Aloha O’e (Farewell to Thee) ended official proceedings.
Lunch was served.
In the words of Uncle Wil: “Aloha nui loa (we love you very much), dear Cousin,” ’til we meet again.