Dad’s Letter to His Uncle Gus Describing the Speading of Grampa’s Ashes


(Photo: The young David Mahelona, Jr.)

Written by Chester E. Mahelona

The following part of this letter is perhaps the toughest to write for me; Lord knows I’ve started it so many times. It’s about Daddy and his passing and its effects on me. It’s been a year since he’s been gone but time hasn’t diluted any of the imagery. I say “imagery” because it was just that – beautiful, poetic imagery. I’m referring to the scattering of his ashes at sea. The enclosed flyer was sent to all his friends & relatives because the experience was something that had to be shared. Stephi and I made it up in place of the standard mortuary “thank you” cards. Daddy wasn’t your “standard,” ordinary human being. I wish I could write my impressions for you, but these are mine only, so you must share them thru my mind’s eye. This is my last memory of him; and it’s one of my most precious . . .

. . . the morning broke warm and sunny with the wind barely a whisper, unable to wrinkle the glass skin of the waveless sea. No twisting, squirming reflections of undersea coral gardens, just colors frozen under glass. The ancient gods were there; a conspiracy of wind and sea to preserve this moment of last rites in becalmed splendor.

Slipping silently from the shore, the catamaran pointed to the cut in the reef, where, in mid channel, the Hawaiian Village Hotel motorboat, its engine silent, glided alongside with a wooden calabash brimming with fragrant gardenias – a final aloha from his friends (and sweethearts) at the Village. Beyond the confines of the reef, aquamarine deepened to blue, then deep blue. Veering to port, we had Waikiki to our left, the open sea to our right and Diamond Head between the twin bows. The hotels stood tall in rising morning light, so splendid in their dress whites and framed by the verdant Koolaus. Daddy was making his last parade.

There was no sensation of forward motion but the barely perceptible nudge of swells reminded you that you were suspended in time and space. The first plumeria blossoms over the side put a smile in the sea – plumerias have always been a happy flower for me. Passing astern it gave a reference to motion. It was unbelievable that we were moving at all, but the casual trail of plumerias made it true. As I watched the plumerias, I thought about what my Japanese friend, the florist, said when I asked for tuberose blossoms, “All my best plumerias for yo’ foddah; they mo’ bettah, brah, they float; the tuberose sinks.” He was right, they were a parade of life; of children merrily trailing over the meadows of the Pacific. I couldn’t help but visualize them as his grandchildren and his great grandchildren to come. We’ll never run out of plumerias; or the essence of them. The visual experience was overwhelmingly beautiful and simple and pure – I found myself smiling and feeling good for Daddy. There was nothing that could make me feel so good for him – other than his being here, alive, strumming his uke with a cold Primo close by.

In moments the ocean was a garden of flowers; flowers with roots of white ash that spiraled to the depths below. I whispered, “Aloha, Daddy, I love you” and eased a vibrant carnation lei into the deep blue ocean. The striking color contrast of red against blue was surreal – more vivid than life itself. As a professional designer/artist I’ve never seen colors more beautiful. I sat in awe at this moment of classic Hawaiian elegance and remarked to myself that this was a proud and sacred moment of final filial devotion for me and I hoped he would be as proud too. I thought nothing could be more meaningful, when suddenly off our port bow 5 porpoises surfaced in graceful unison – a wonderful omen in any nautical culture, but the ultimate blessing in our Hawaiian heritage as they twice more surfaced to complete the triad. The ancient Polynesian powers had bestowed a magnificent Aloha – a fitting tribute to a son’s hero. The memory is personal and ours to keep forever.

That’s the way I would have wanted it to be; that’s the way it was.

One thought on “Dad’s Letter to His Uncle Gus Describing the Speading of Grampa’s Ashes

  1. …and yet another family heirloom to cherish…I think this was the first “written” art I had ever experienced from Dad…it is emblazoned on my memory (as is the beige paper on which it was printed) forever…


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