Over the past couple of weeks here at the HAT Blog, we’ve had the impetus, if not the time, to think about living and dying in Hawaii. Two friends, in the same age cohort, have passed away. Both fought their battles with pancreatic cancer to a draw. After all, the cancer within them died with them, as the comic great Norm MacDonald once put it. That’s a draw. At any rate, it has us thinking about Hawaii funerals and, perhaps oddly, Hawaii weddings.
Hawaii is a destination wedding mecca. One needs only to find an Oahu beach or street corner in Waikiki or Chinatown to confirm this as fact, with giddy couples and an entourage of fixers, stylists, and photographers snapping pics for social media. It’s an industry. Of course. It’s beautiful and exotic and quirky here. The place itself is part of the wedding party.
Hawaii funerals – more than mourning
The same goes for Hawaii funerals. Canoe crews along Waikiki Beach take mourners and their urns full of earthly remains and bundles of tropical flowers into the waters beyond the breakers for solemn remembrances and joyful retellings of cherished memories daily. The final wishes of many people around the world are as simple as “scatter my ashes in Hawaii”. I know this to be true because it was the final wish of both my Ma and my Pa, who died two years apart. I’ll note here that I also sprinkled some of their ashes from a saltshaker in the impossibly green fields of Ireland. I’m not sure if that’s legal, but what’s done is done.
The HAT Blog Home Office has long served as a de facto mausoleum for the ashes of an aunt and uncle from Philadelphia, who wanted their ashes spread in the waters of Waikiki. It’s been years now, and I just haven’t made the time to arrange the organizing of canoes, invitations, and other event-planning necessities involved in such a ceremony. It’s not like they’re waiting, I rationalize. There’s life to live.
How we remember
The two men who’ve recently gone worked together over the years. One behind the bar and the other on stage in multiple venues over many years. Both were paragons of professionalism and inimitable personality. Honorable men, loved by many. Of the two, a memorial service was held by friends for the musician over this past weekend in the venue he was irretrievably dedicated to.
We’re loathe to say that someone is/was the “hardest working” whatever, but we can say unequivocally that no one worked harder in Honolulu’s music scene than Porter. Cory was a bartender and fisherman, working the hardest closing shifts in the raucous tumult of late-night Waikiki for many years and reeling in big game fish in the waters off West Oahu to share with family and friends. Both men exemplified all that is good and flawed and loveable about hardworking blue-collar residents of Hawaii.
We’ve written about Hawaii funerals here before. And about cemeteries. Hopefully, not in a moribund and navel-gazing way, but in way that highlights the fact that the ritual of a final farewell is truly a “celebration of life”, a way to temper grief for the departed with love and to bind together those who loved them and remain.
These rituals, Hawaii funerals and Hawaii weddings, are reminders of the meaning of “aloha”. It’s a term that has been coopted and monetized, and it is hotly debated as either a deeply meaningful expression of love and caring or a cynical trope to sell Hawaii as a destination. Both are true. We here at the HAT Blog cling to the former.
There is no better place in the world (yes, we’re biased) to start a new chapter. Hawaii weddings are superlative in their uniqueness. Hawaii funerals are beyond hyperbole when it comes to their ability to evoke fond memories and newfound appreciation for those we know and care about and who share the same sorrow. Dark grief diminishes in the warm light of love…of aloha. And that is a wonderful final chapter.