A Celebration of Life

It’s been a couple weeks since I took off to Abbotsford for my Uncle Peter’s Celebration of Life. I’ve been wanting to write this post since then, but I’ve been struggling to put everything I am feeling into words, and wanted to give myself some time to process the message I am hoping to send.

I don’t want to talk about how or why my Uncle Peter died, because that is a whole different story. What I do want to talk about is what I have been able to take away from such a tragic situation. I want to talk about the sheer number of people that came out to celebrate Peter’s life, and the way I have been reconnecting with family members because of it. I want to talk about the fact that life is just too short to take anyone or anything for granted.

All the emotions involved with this situation won’t just go away, but I have to say that the other weekend, I finally figured out why a memorial ceremony can be good. Yes, it was sad. Yes, planning a memorial is pretty much the most horrible type of event planning I can think of. Yes, it was at times hard to be there. But also, a ceremony like that is the beginning of the process of healing for everyone.

When I first heard about my Uncle Peter’s death, I was shocked. My immediate thought was for my aunt and cousins and how they would possibly deal with this situation. My next thought was about how long it had been since I last saw Peter. It was a few years ago, when he was in Whitehorse on business while my brother and I were still living up there. My family was going through some tough times and the two of us ended up talking some things out with Peter. I don’t remember the whole conversation we had that day, but I do remember some words of wisdom that Peter left my brother and I with:

“No one should have to carry anything alone. Sometimes all you can do to make a problem better is to talk about it, and to rely on the people around you to be there when you need a hand picking yourself back up.”

These words really helped me move forward, through many of my problems then. And today, I feel that this is what is happening in the aftermath of Peter’s death. I’m trying to be there for my aunt and cousins, and so were the 400 others at his memorial that day. So many of those people in attendance offered help and support to my aunt moving forward, and in that, they are helping the family to not carry this burden alone. This was what his wife and sons needed that day, and this is what they will need moving forward.

The major thing that I learned, personally, from Peter’s memorial is that you don’t ever have the time to wait to get to know someone. Hearing the stories about Peter made me realize how little time I had spent with him as an adult, and what I had missed out on experiencing as a result. This occasion was not ideal for reconnecting with my cousins, but it was the first time that I had seen most of them in quite a few years, and I realized that they had all grown up while I was gone. I really want to make an effort to not put off spending time with anyone to “one day”, because who knows if I will ever reach that day. Life always gets in the way, but I’m going to make a conscious effort to reach out more often, to all of my friends and family, and to make myself accessible for them as well.

Thank you, Uncle Peter, for the valuable lessons. We’ll miss you.

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Love KG

A Family Thing

Over a month ago, I wrote a post about my great grandparents, titled “Girl of My Dreams”. Since then, I’ve received some pretty cool things by way of some family connections that I’ve never really been aware of before. My Aunty Glenda passed away less than a month ago, and some of those connections have come because of that. We will all really miss her, but I will always remember her for her funny stories and constant laughter. At a time like this, I always spend more time thinking about my family – those I know and those I never had the chance to spend time with.

As I mentioned, I’ve received a couple things that I wanted to share here. I hadn’t thought to include a link to the song “Girl of My Dreams” itself, but I was sent one. Listening to it and just imagining what my great grandparents were going through is enough to bring a tear to my eye.

The other thing that I’ve received that is probably one of the best things I think I now own is this photo of my Grandpa Jack, singing with his brothers Harold, Michael, and Joseph. I’ve heard they were very talented.

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I really enjoy pieces of family history like this one. Though it is from before my time, it is still a part of my story, so I wanted to share it here.

Love KG

“Girl of My Dreams”

I was lucky enough to have a visit last night with my Hawaiian family. For any of you who have not seen my earlier blog posts, I have an aunt, uncle, and two young cousins who live in paradise. I spent some time living with them for a few months two years ago, which you can read about in earlier posts on this blog, but I have not had the chance to see them much since. Here is an adorable picture of my cousins and I last night:

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Aren’t they the cutest??

Yesterday, the Hawaiians (along with my grandparents) made a stop in Edmonton on a whirlwind trip through western Canada. By the end of this trip they will have spent time in a long list of places including Edmonton, Red Deer, Jasper, Lake Louise, Kelowna, Kamloops, and Vancouver. I think it’s great for the kids to have the opportunity to see so many places in Canada at such a young age.

Anyhow, yesterday we all went for a dinner with some family in St. Albert, and we got to talking about my great grandparents. That is the real reason I decided to write a blog post today. I feel that stories about family are a part of each individual’s history, and I try to make the most of any opportunities I have to learn about those who came before me. My grampa told a touching story last night about his parents, and I wanted to try to put it in writing. I may not get all the details right, but the main ideas of the story are what really matter, and that’s what I want to share here today.

I never met my great grandfather from this side of my family – he died when my dad was about 10 years old. I have heard a few stories over the years about Grandpa Jack, but I feel like I missed out with never having met him. I do have memories of his wife, my great grandmother, who we called “Ama”. This is a name my dad gave her when he was young and couldn’t quite manage to say “Grandma”. From there, it just stuck. Ama passed away when I was 12 or so – I remember it as my first real touch with death.

The story last night came out of an unexpected discussion about musicality. Many members in my family seem to have some natural musical talent – I wish I was one of the ones that got a little more of that! – and my grampa commented that Grandpa Jack was quite a singer. In fact, he had a singing quartet with his three brothers before they went away to serve overseas in the war, which is where the story begins.

Ama and my Grandpa Jack were married right before Jack was sent away to war. They didn’t have the chance to really have any sort of life together before he was gone and she had no guarantee that he would return. They had only letters to get them through, but for one rare exception. As I already mentioned, my Grandpa Jack was apparently quite the singer, and he once serenaded Ama from across the ocean over the military radio. He sang “Girl of My Dreams”, and this was the only time Ama heard his voice over the 6 years he was away.

Girl of my dreams, I love you
Honest I do, you are so sweet
If I could just hold your charms
Again in my arms
Then, life would be complete!

Since you’ve been gone, dear
Life don’t seem the same
Please come back again!

And after all’s said an’ done
There’s only one
Girl of my dreams, it’s you!

Since you’ve been gone, dear
Life don’t seem the same
Please come back again!

And after all’s said an’ done
There’s only one
Girl of my dreams, it’s you!

I can’t even begin to imagine how emotional and powerful hearing something like that would have been for Ama – it’s difficult to think about a world like that in today’s social-media-powered society. Luckily, this story has a happy ending since Grandpa Jack and all his brothers did actually return from the war – which I think seems incredibly fortunate – and Ama and Jack went on to build a family together.

When I think of my own history, I want to always remember as many pieces of my family’s past as possible. Everything that Ama and Grandpa Jack went through is just one story of hundreds of thousands of stories about the war, but this story is a part of my story, so it is important to me and I believe it is worth being heard.

To end off, here’s a picture of my aunt, Stacy, and I at Grandpa Jack and Ama’s grave last year.

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Love KG

A-Hiking We Will Go!

Stacy, La’a, and I hiked Pololu Valley on Thursday.  It was an absolutely perfect day to do this trip!  La’a got very excited about hiking in the morning and dressed up in all his safari gear.  It was adorable.  We started off by heading to Waimea where Stacy had a morning appointment.  La’a and I went to Starbucks to sit for a bit while we were waiting for her.  He practiced his alphabet while I wrote a few postcards.

After that, we drove the upper road from Waimea to Kohala, and made our way towards Pololu.  The valley was beautiful. I was very excited to be heading down the hill this time instead of just looking from the top.

We hiked down to the bottom – it only took 15 minutes or so, even with a 4-year-old in tow – and hung out down there for a while.

We then made the trek back up.  La’a did so well – I think Stacy only had to carry him for one stretch of a few minutes on the way up.  So a note to everyone else out there:  4-year-olds can totally hike Pololu.  And everyone they walk past is extremely impressed that they are doing it, especially when their backpack is full of rocks that they want to bring home.

Next, we had lunch in Hawi, did a little shopping, and again got the most heavenly coconut ice cream on Earth.  By that time, we had to head back to Waikoloa to pick Leilani up.  We spent the evening watching Mulan and relaxing.

Wednesday was a mellow day to get things done around the house, which definitely necessary at this point.

On Thursday Stacy and I went golfing at the Waikoloa Village course.  We had probably a perfect day for that as well – the gale force winds of Waikoloa weren’t in force and a nice cool breeze had replaced them.  We had a good morning on the golf course, even though Stacy hadn’t been out in ages.  We did manage to get lost near the end and played a couple holes twice.  We’re still not sure exactly what happened, but it was ridiculous.

That night, a couple came over to check out our bunnies.  We already had a home lined up for one of them, but were really hoping to find another home for the pair that had been together the whole time.  As it turned out, this couple wanted to take two of them!  They’re waiting to pick them up as a Christmas surprise, but we were quite happy to find a good place for them to go.  It looks like little renegade bunny will be heading to the other home Stacy had set up, as the other two already seem bonded.

My favourite thing in this blog post was definitely hiking Pololu.  It was a perfect day.

Love KG