On the day they buried my Nana I sat on an ocean view balcony six stories above the beach on Maui’s west side. The birds chattered like a sanctuary and the waves lapped the coast with the rush and throb of constant motion.
A gigantic palm tree stretched higher than my perch and shimmied in the ocean breeze. Its fronds rustled like feather wind chimes.
|Ocean View Balcony, Maui, KDW May 2013|
It’s not exactly foreign in Maui. It is America displaced: English language signage and inflated prices on canned soda framed by hibiscus and coconuts and scented like sunscreen. Everyone drowsy with vacation and paradise and syrupy Mai Tais.
Maui isn’t home. Palm trees are not Palmettos and pineapples don’t really go with everything. It is what you expect, which is comforting.
Maui is exactly what you expect.
The last time I was this far away was 2007. I was in Manila where the tidy western office parks were occasionally swept by a wretched stench off the river and everything instantly turned thick and dirty.
Nana could have died then but she didn’t. There were still things to do.
I came home, had Hollie, and visited Nana every month from the time Hollie was six months old until last summer.
Last summer we moved to Columbia and I began visiting every week. Sometimes with Hollie but more often without, I drove I-20 East without blinking and sat on the green couch with the pineapple embroidered pillow.
I listened to Nana. I talked to her. I looked at her. Breathed with her. I knew I would never regret the time I spent, the time I gave. I knew, everyone knew, it wouldn’t be long. Yet in every scenario I imagined I never considered I wouldn’t be there. Never.
I don’t think I needed another chance to say goodbye and I’m not selfish enough to think I needed to be there.
But close is all I ever wanted to be.
When we were children visiting Florence I would imagine moving there, buying a very big house, seeing Nana every day. When I went to Clemson it was so I could be near her. When I get so frustrated with my cousins who live nearby it’s because I think if I lived there I would visit every day.
I’ve never been close enough.
|At the luau, KDW May 2013|
I’m not the inner circle of Nana’s life. Her inner circle was Papa and then her children and then her grandchildren. I know I belong on the third rim.
She was on my third rim, too. After Charlie and Hollie, then my sisters and parents, then Florence. I didn’t see her every day or speak to her or even really think about her.
But she’s part of me, part of who I am. I think I was part of her, too. I am so blessed to have had this time with her. I am so blessed to have been able to tell her how much I loved her. To tell her goodbye. To mourn with her before I was without her.
I hope I will reflect Nana’s love, her gentleness, her forgiveness, her selflessness, her open-heartedness. I hope Hollie will remember her. I hope others will see her in me.
I know Maui isn’t the end of the earth and I know missing the funeral isn’t the end of the world. Not even close. I know all living things eventually die.
Even when we’re warned, we can still be dazed.
We can still gaze out over the Pacific Ocean, toward Lana’i, toward the setting sun. We can still drive up Haleakala and snorkel at Molokini, and sit below gyrating hula dancers at luau or on an airline for nine hours. We can stand on the shore of a volcanic island or the highest tee box of the Ka’anapali golf course.
We can do all the things we have left to do and still pause and think, “She would have loved this.”
We can carry Nana to Maui with us. We can think one more goodbye might have helped.
Have you ever had to say goodbye from thousands of miles away?