Yesterday, August 9th, would have been our 18th wedding anniversary. Can it really be so long since that day we said our vows on that beach in Maui? He died before we made 14. I hear of people married 25 years, 40 years, 55 years…we never got that. But I am grateful for the years we did have. Believe me.
One of Mike’s best friends died recently here in Kona. Tabo and his family were endearingly important to our happy welcome to this island when we moved here in 2001. We shared so many meals together, holidays, birthdays. His wife Lani taught me to weave ti plant leis and to pick the flowers from our native Ohia trees…I remember she told me the legend that if you picked an Ohia flower, it would rain, and the day we first did that together, it did indeed start to rain. That time was just purely magical for us, becoming part of life here on this remote island with its rich history.
When Mike died, Tabo was devastated along with the rest of us. He and his boys went down to the spot on the beach we had selected for Mike’s memorial, early in the morning, and set up all the pop up tents, chairs and tables, and ran the barbecue. I was blind with grief and will never forget what a help that was.
Tabo was around Mike’s age, a year younger perhaps, and suffered a very rapid cancer that took him in mere weeks, before anyone could even suspect it would happen.
His memorial was this past weekend. I appeared, by myself, not sure what to expect or how I would handle it. I hadn’t seen the family in quite some time, though I see the kids on Facebook. My stepdaughter who lives here joined me briefly, but she was triggered and left early…which I totally get. It just brings back so much.
But I had those early years here with that family which she hadn’t. I needed to see each and every one of them, hug them, cry with them. It was a beautiful service in a large pavilion at a beach park. I estimate at least 200 people were there. Maybe more. We used to joke that Tabo was the unofficial mayor of Kona, he seemed to know everyone.
I stood in the back for a long time. Then I wandered near the front to grab a bottle of water from one of the coolers just as the slideshow started. I didn’t realize his boys were standing there too until one of them saw me, grabbed me and hugged me, sobbing. I couldn’t stop crying. And it wasn’t just that I felt the loss of Tabo so deeply, which I did. I felt the loss of an entire life. An entire existence we all shared for so many years, and yet, not long enough.
I talked to Lani, his wife. We remembered our good times together, which were many and plentiful with happiness. She then told me with eyes glistening with tears how she had also lost two other important family members this year. She said, it’s not even just about the loss, it’s about that feeling of being left behind. Yeah. I get that.
Mike and I moved here with stars in our eyes. We shared glorious, wonderful, heartfelt moments with this family and others. I cried for Tabo, I cried for his family, his children, his grandchildren. But I also cried for the loss of that life. We had become part of something here, and it felt lost now, even amidst the love. Standing in that huge pavilion looking out over the people and onto the ocean just outside, I saw the entirety of that life pass before me. My circumstances are contriving to move me away one of these days in the not so distant future. And the loss of Tabo seems to be the punctuation at the end of that sentence.
You might have thought it was Mike’s death that would have done that, but I’ve had more years here which I now realize I needed. I’ve had life to figure out without him, friends to do that with, and time to do it. But that day spent mourning the life of our friend hit hard. The loss was unbearable as it came pouring over me.
In Hawaii, lots of food is served at events like this - funerals, baby birthdays, graduations, weddings. Traditional luaus like most tourists never see, much of it caught and prepared by the families themselves. One of Mike’s favorite parts about life here. I have to laugh thinking about how much he loved those local buffet lines with all the local fish and delicacies. But I just couldn’t bear to stay. It was all just too much, and despite all the people I knew, I felt searingly alone.
That feeling has not left. That feeling that I have witnessed a beautiful era, and then the passing of that era. The wholeness of our life here together, the beautiful people we shared it with, and the shocking new reality I am now faced with as I attempt to move forward. It will not leave me, I think. 18 years later, here I stand, like it or not, on the precipice of a very different life, with a cascade of beautiful memories I will always treasure.
Soon, it will be time to move on from this place. But I will take it all with me in my heart. God speed, brother Tabo. Hope you and Mike are flying high together now. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for everything you and your family shared with us. Thank you for your generous spirit and the friendship you showed my beautiful husband. I miss you both so much.