Hawaii is widely acknowledged as paradise. And of course it’s beautiful. It’s fantastically beautiful and fantastically strange. I arrived here with the generic Hawaii expectations: Hula girls, ukuleles, beaches, drinks with little umbrellas in them. But I also arrived with my bad attitude and reluctance to give even a rat’s ass about any of it, and my resolve to instead focus on how my plans had been so royally screwed up. Which facilitated the expansion of my bad attitude into a really bad attitude. The heat. The distance. The expense. The inconvenience. The delicious Brontean misery of grief.
I read Unbroken and fell in love with Louis Zamperini. I also fell in love with his family. Any mother who has to sit in front of the door with a rolling pin to keep her TODDLER from escaping (again) gets all kinds of love from me. Louis was stationed here on Oahu for a time right before he left on that doomed flight. Driving around this island, especially on overcast days when the little bits of sunlight hit the darkening palm trees bending in the wind as they wait for rain, I think about him a lot. He drifted on the Pacific Ocean for 47 days. Forty-seven days of sun scorching, shark fighting, bullet dodging, storm weathering, starvation and fear with very little hope to cling to. Yet at a certain point, the starvation gave him clarity. Immediately after being “rescued” he was imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp. Beaten, further starved, humiliated, and demoralized, Laura Hillenbrand says, “he missed the raft.” Reading those four words took my breath away.
The raft was too small for 3 grown men. It was not where he intended to be. It was not comfortable. It was not even safe. But it is what saved him and his friend. I am definitely not starving, (I’m totally eating the last gingerbread man cookie that I’d frozen from Christmas. No shame. I’ve also eaten 5 of his brethren before him. That’s 6 gingerbread men. After my salad lunch…) but I have had some clarity during this last year.
Saying that I can accept unflattering revelations on my person gracefully and with the appropriate measure of reflection and repentance is like saying I will not be consumed by full body-wracking sobs while watching any given episode of Call the Midwife. ‘Tis a lie, Precious.
I listen to the radio on the traffic trek to school each day. I’ve heard it said that you know you’re in love when all the songs make sense. Since moving here, all the songs have made sense. But not because I love the island. I listen to Jesus music. At first it was because I wanted those songs stuck in my kids’ head. I hear them singing to themselves, “There’s a war between guilt and grace/ And they’re fighting for a sacred space/ But I’m living proof: grace wins every time,” instead of, “Baby, baby, baby, oooh/ Like baby, baby, baby, baby, noo/ Like baby, baby, baby, baby oooh/ I thought you’d always be mine” and I feel like a good parent. But the songs also get stuck in MY head. Which is useful for the other 12 hours of the day when I am not such a great parent…
We have our new assignment and it is to a location that was neither on our list of acceptable choices nor anywhere remotely close to our family. This, after we had convinced ourselves, due to the logical evidence and information we were given, that we would actually get what we wanted this time. And by “we” I of course mean ME. I would get what I wanted.
I blame the raft.
For the first year we were here, all the songs seemed to be about oceans and waves and having faith in the midst of doubt. The second year all I heard was God is FOR us, not against us, being brave, and fighting the good fight. Now all the songs are saying: Trust.
Death and grief have touched me and those around me more since moving here than during 3 deployments. Friends’ husbands, friends’ babies, friends’ parents, friends themselves. Easter was very poignant for me this year. I will see those friends again. My friends will see their babies again. I will meet my other babies. We have this hope. This trust.
I can trust all over the place about the afterlife. It’s the life part that I seem to have trouble with.
In the beginning, I may or may not have indicated that I did not wish to live in Hawaii. It was subtle, you may have missed it, but I didn’t really want to move here 3 years ago. Now that it’s time for me to leave, I find myself randomly tearing up as I run errands or sit in traffic. I will miss the people I’ve come to love so much here. My friends. My kids’ friends. The ladies in the post office who are always so nice to me. Our little 15 mile radius life that has been so sweet and difficult and funny and stressful and exciting and sad and rich and worrisome and good. There are many many parts that I wish never happened. But truthfully, I think I needed to be here and those things needed to happen to me for one reason or another.
It’s been almost a full year since my online business venture and I’ve been ridiculously blessed by it. I started out just wanting to earn enough to buy this Hawaiian bracelet.
I had enough by the fourth month, so I just kept going to see what would happen. And what happened was a completely unexpected joy and deep satisfaction. Ho’omana’o means “Remember.” And while there is so much that I would rather forget, I don’t want to ever forget that God’s plan is good–even when the way it plays out is not.
Aloha means hello, goodbye, and love. Aloha means everything. So. Aloha, Hawaii.
I’m thinking I might even miss the raft.