Josh Guerra and the Hawaiian Farewell: Sad but sweet

Hundreds gathered on the sands of Kailua Beach. A warm, smoldering breeze buffeted the modestly assembled hundreds of friends and family of City & County Ocean Safety Lifeguard Lieutenant Josh Guerra. The mayor spoke. The local news covered it.

The memorial in Josh’s honor is a shining, singular example of what makes Hawaii unique. It was, with its simultaneous solemnity and celebration, not a demonstration of the “aloha spirit”, but the embodiment of it. Like Josh himself.

Family and friends celebrate Josh Guerra in the waters he protected.

Hawaii memorials for lost loved ones have a way of expressing grief through love and laughter. They are rituals that are cruel in their necessity. But they are wonderfully merciful in their purpose of helping those left behind to heal their loss. These gatherings bring together friends and family who exchange wordless acknowledgement of their love for the lost and for one another. Hugs and humble giggles are better than words.

There seems always to be a passing rain at these times, or some other blessing from the natural world. It is always welcomed. It might be a rainbow or a pueo on the wing. Here in Hawaii, those of us who have the sorrowful privilege of loving someone now gone know it when we see it, and when we feel it.

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These are the times and trials that reaffirm and reinforce bonds of family and of friendship. The sea, the sky and the living land itself bind us in sadness and gratitude and hope. We share aloha.

Much has been said of Josh after his passing. He was remarkable and admirable in ways too numerous to count, and in ways that only those who knew the man can understand. Categorically revered lifeguard. Consummate, professional drummer. A paragon of pono, of righteousness, of being a good person always and to all.

A wearable tribute to Josh Guerra. Photo courtesy.

As has been done for countless other beloved sons and daughters of Hawaii, scores of family and friends paddled out on longboards, SUP’s, and canoes to spread ashes and flowers and love for Josh. A fleet of eight jet skis circled the throng as flower lei were tossed into the breeze and people splashed and cheered Josh’s spirit.

The celebration of Josh’s life was a confirmation that he was a Son of Hawaii. It was a bittersweet ritual that shows how truly Hawaii and the people who love it understand the connection between people and place. He wasn’t born here. But he moved here to be a part of Hawaii.

It is always sad, the need to honor someone in their wake. Somehow, Hawaii makes it less painful.