Aloha ‘Oe – Farewell, my beloved
I discovered Hawaii relatively late. My husband suggested we go there and “get married on the beach” – a proposal anyone would find hard to say no. But I wasn’t prepared for the sense of belonging I experienced the minute my foot touched the tarmac, the energy that felt like it shot from the land up my spine and out the top of my head, touching off a migraine that persisted nearly a week.
The thing about the migraine was…I didn’t care. I didn’t care if my head was on fire, as long as I could soak in light so bright I could feel it penetrate my bones, breathe the warm salt air that felt like a hug every time I stepped outside. I could close my eyes and listen to the whisper of the palm trees, feel the breeze caress me like a mother.
For whatever rhyme or reason, I felt I was at home, claimed by Mama Pele as one of her own.
The honeymoon ended and we went back to Connecticut, where I mostly told myself that that strange sense of homecoming, of belonging, of being claimed by the land was mostly a figment of a bride’s imagination.
A year or so later, and we went back to Hawaii.
We were less than an hour of out Honolulu. I was reading, hoping only that the interminable flight would end. Suddenly, I felt as if I had been wrapped in the most loving embrace, a literal warm pink fuzzy feeling that enveloped and suffused my entire body. The print in my book blurred as my eyes filled with tears. What on earth was going on, I wondered, gripping the arm of my seat.
In that very moment, the pilot’s voice came over the loudspeaker, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have entered Hawaiian airspace. Aloha, and welcome home.”
That was the trip we went to Maui and the Big Island. I remember walking along the seawall on Alii Drive, listening to the slap of the ocean against the jagged rocks, and knowing, with some strange sense of clairsentience, I was home.
I was too sick in October of last year when we left Kona, to do more than hope I survived the flight back to Connecticut. For three glorious years, I was blessed to call Hawaii home. But the form of breast cancer with which I was diagnosed in 2013 is particularly aggressive. By last fall, I needed to be closer to my children, all of whom are in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Now I follow life in Kona through the social media postings of my friends there. Do I miss the Big Island? Of course, I do. I’ve never felt more at home anywhere in the world, and I still have no idea why. In the three years I spent there, I met some of the kindest, most loving and most creative souls I have ever been privileged to know, people who truly try to live “aloha,” people, who, no matter the story that brought them there, appreciate what is quite possibly the most extraordinary land on earth.
My husband holds out hope of our return. I take each day as it comes, and if it happens I find my way back, I will consider myself the most fortunate of humans.
But now, as I lie on my couch, like Beth from Little Women, watching the New England seasons turn, I remember the kiss of light so bright it feels as if one’s bones could melt and dissolve. I remember the scent of an ocean so deep and blue the whales frolic a few feet from shore. I remember the deceptive hardness of pillowy lava, and the spongey grass after a tropical rain, the heavy scent of the tropical flowers rising like steam. I remember the snow glistening on Mauna Kea, and the rain clouds lowering over Mauna Loa.
I remember the words of William Blake – to see all heaven in a grain of sand and eternity in an hour. Hawaii taught me to savor every minute, to appreciate every second I was blessed to live in such beauty. I close my eyes and remember the words of Queen Lili’uokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch, who was forced off her throne by the sugar barons, “Aloha, ‘Oe.” Written as a farewell between two lovers, the queen perfectly captures both the beauty of the islands and how difficult it is to leave them:
Farewell, my darling. Farewell.
Annie Kelleher is a writer, psychic medium, mother, wife, grandmother and ardent denouncer of all things Trump. She spends her days on social media, trolling the Cheeto-in-the-Chief and encouraging the Resistance any way she can. Her books are mostly available on Amazon. She is currently working on a memoir, Dying One Day at a Time.