My uncle was the oldest of 12 children and a quasi-parent to his younger siblings. He lived to just shy of his 90th birthday. The last time I saw him he told me some wonderful stories about growing up in Honolulu in the 1920's, 30's and 40's.
Hawai'i has always been about family to me, but it's hard not to notice that everywhere you look there's a postcard view. It's a strange feeling to be headed to paradise for such a sad occasion, and on the plane I felt pretty out of place surrounded by tourists en route to their dream vacations.
My memories of my uncle are all connected with Hawai'i itself. He was a horticulturist and soil scientist and worked to support the independent sugar cane farmers on the Big Island. His wife, my auntie Alice, ran an anthurium farm - a flower I can't help but associate with the islands. The last time we were here proudly brought us to Volcanoes National Park and Big Island Candies. His guided tours of the Big Island were always a highlight of my family's trips here, and everywhere we went everyone seemed to know him.
On Monday, as my plane flew over this island, I looked down and realized that my memories of my uncle are memories of Hawai'i itself. He loved Hawai'i, and to honor him is to appreciate the place he loved.
Above is an image (from an auction) of a painting by renowned Hawai'ian painter Pegge Hopper. It's called "A Precious Gift," or "He Makana Makamae" in Hawai'ian. Her paintings of Hawai'ian women are so evocative of the island spirit. Her subjects are reclined and depicted in vibrant colors, and their gazes reflect strength, resilience, and in this case, tenderness.