Last week, my grandmother (my dad’s mom) passed away. She was like my second mom. The mom my cousins, sister and I had while all our parents worked full time. She was always there for us.
Today (tuesday in Hawaii, wednesday in the Philippines) is her funeral and my heart is heavy. I wish I was there to say goodbye – but I couldn’t make it happen.
Every year for the past 17 years an event called the Lantern Floating Hawaii is held on Memorial Day. It’s a beautiful event that brings together people who have lost someone.
The first time I attended this event was 8 years ago. I had lost my first husband in a tragic motorcycle accident and a few months later, I loss an aunt to lung cancer. It was a hard couple of months. Then I heard about this event and with a friend of mine willing to brave the crowds with me – we went. It was what I needed. Tears were shed, the mood was solemn, but so hopeful and peaceful.
Because I felt helpless about not being able to be at my grandma’s funeral, I wanted this to be the way I say goodbye.
Since I had to drive all the way into town, I knew I’d be spending my whole day there. I left early, wanting to get in line for the free individual lanterns they give out to the public, which would start at 10am. I got there at 10:15am and the line was so long, I thought they would run out of lanterns by the time I got to the front of the line. But the volunteers for the event reassured us that about 6,000 lanterns were available and about 1,000 were handed out so it seemed like they had enough. I stood in line for 2 hours. Thank goodness I brought an umbrella to shade me from the hot sun, and the people standing in line with me were really nice. And thank you to the friends that kept me company by texting me! You guys are awesome.
I found out through Facebook that a friend of mine was in the tent volunteering for the event. It was a pleasure to see a friendly face and get a hug after waiting for 2 hours. She is from Nepal originally and we talked about the earthquake. I am so relieved her family is okay. We saw each other for only maybe 15 minutes, but it meant a lot to me to see her.
After getting my lantern and writing my messages, I had another couple hours to kill before the event started at 6pm.
I walked over to Ala Moana Shopping Center and decided to buy myself a small lunch. Water for sure, because I was parched. I was even convinced by a nice worker at Aloha Gelato to buy a scoop of Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet. After all the walking and standing I did in the sun, this was so YUMMY in my TUMMY.
Then I got another nice treat and saw another friend who worked at the center – she had a 15 minute break so we sat down and caught up as best as we could in such a short time. I was so happy to see her!
I did book a massage at Ho’ala Salon & Spa so I could pass the time even faster. Yet again while I waited I got to spend some time with another friend. She sat with me after her work shift was done and we passed the time talking. This good friend of mine even decided to wait until my massage was over so she could join me at the beach for the ceremony.
After my wonderful massage we walked down to the where the ceremony was being held at Ala Moana Beach Park and it was packed. My own cousin who was there couldn’t find me in the crowd. My friend and I found an area on the sand and sat down as the ceremony started. Of course I cried. They featured a family who had lost their daughter to brain cancer…and with all the emotion I was already feeling, there I was, crying. And there was my friend, handing me tissue.
Even though about 50,000 people were in attendance, it was a calm and peaceful event. Maybe because we all have lost someone and have grieved or were grieving…we were joined together in that. In a larger sense, this is an event to remind us, we are NOT alone in our grief and loss, EVER.
The ceremony and entertainment is only 45-50 minutes long. Soon it was time for people with lanterns to gather by the water. Every few feet there was a volunteer with a lighter, lighting the candles for us in the lantern.
There are a lot of spectators here at this event, clicking away with their cameras, and I don’t blame them. The glow of lanterns on the ocean is breathtaking – it feels sacred and special. I don’t remember having so many cameras clicking off around me the first time I attended this event, but these days with everyone being a photographer, it was everywhere. At least spectators did move aside when they saw me carrying my lantern and for that I am grateful because it was already a long day for me and all I wanted was this moment to say goodbye to my grandma and honor my other loved ones. And I didn’t linger once I put my lantern down. There were so much people waiting to say their own goodbyes.
If you have never attended this event, I do recommend you go at least once. It’s such a touching way to memorialize your loved ones and those who have fallen fighting for our country. It brings peace to my heart knowing the spirit of my loved ones live forever in me. In my heart, in my memories.
When I came home last night I thought about my long day and what happened. All I can say is that I am BLESSED. Blessed with such good people in my life. I have lost amazing people, but my grief is great because the love was so great and I miss them so much.
I thought my day was going to be about “waiting” all day. Alone. But I wasn’t. I had the nice people in line. I ran into friends I hadn’t seen in months. I am so eternally grateful that God put these people in my path this very day so that I wouldn’t feel alone in this. My cup runneth over, a million times over.
“How could we not talk about family when family’s all that we got?
Everything I went through you were standing there by my side
And now you gonna be with me for the last ride
So let the light guide your way
Hold every memory as you go
and every road you take will always lead you home“
-Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth “See You Again”