Sometimes Hawaii knows best. My mother’s first Hawaii vacation was delayed by 30 years and, more recently, has been months in the making. And yet, her most memorable experience is seemingly the result of chance.

So many people were happy that my mother was finally fulfilling a decades-old dream that their kind advice threatened to hijack the trip. Weeks before her arrival, friends brought books, clothing and cherished mementos of their own experiences in Hawaii. And yet, if we had constructed a trip of all their recommendations, it would have robbed my mother of her own trip, her own special memories. Rather than being able to contribute her favorite “find”, she would be only able to echo “me, too” when others reminisced about their time here. We reduced, trying to honor special requests where possible and accommodating the wishes of her traveling companion.

Today’s activity was the history trolley tour around Honolulu. We left the tour at the state capitol and that’s where the fun began. I wanted my mother to see the statue of Saint Damien in front of the capitol, because I know she has always had a special devotion to him. Afterward, we walked along the Fort Street pedestrian mall to show her the church where St. Damien was ordained. (I have been past it but never inside.) Just as we reached the building, bells began to ring. It was noon and Mass was beginning. To me, that meant the building would be open and we could duck inside. We stayed for the service, itself memorable for my mother. Following, we approached the front of the church where a memorial to St. Damien is displayed. We apologized for disturbing a woman sitting nearby, and they struck up a conversation. It turns out she and my mother share a devotion to St. Damien and many other personal experiences. They visited briefly but with the intensity born of shared religious passion. She pointed us to an adjoining gallery with items honoring St. Damien.

None of this was on anyone’s “must see/do list.” The entire persion took about two hours. It will be the highlight of my mother’s own special memories of this visit to Hawaii. It happened because we were able to leave space in the schedule for Hawaii to work its magic. (My mother would credit saintly or pine intervention — either way, they need room to work.)


  1. Great story Cindy! I never though about the “me too” aspect of visiting Hawaii!! It was great for her to have an experience that is a “one of a kind” that she will treasure for years to come. Hawaii is magical indeed!

  2. Awesome post and you remind me that when people come to visit, it’s not all about what “we” think they should see but rather about what our guests want to do to create their own personal memories and it may be completely contrary to what we “think” as locals, is memorable

  3. Wow, that’s fantastic. I’m so glad she got what she wanted without having to look too hard or overplan everything. Good for her.

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