The sky wasn’t blue the day I visited Keawala’i Churchyard, but that was okay. My mom was recovering from surgery that removed melanoma from her upper arm, leaving her with a hole the size of a bar of soap. They’d gotten all the cancer and it wouldn’t spread, but we didn’t know that yet. We were being very careful to stay out of the sun as much as we could.
We’d spent our trip to Hawaii rushing around. Mom liked to take tours, so we’d taken a bus around Oahu and visited the Iolani Palace. On Maui, we’d been to a former sugar plantation, the whaling museum, and on a whale watch. Now that our trip was winding down, I’d finally talked Mom into sitting on the beach. We were on our way to Makena’s Big Beach when we found the little cemetery.
Mom knows how I am. She got me started visiting cemeteries. Now she visits them in my name when she’s traveling and takes pictures for me. That day on Maui, she was content to let me wander from gravestone to gravestone, photographing everything that caught my eye.
I found a section that held only tiny plaques. At first I thought they were remembrances of people whose ashes had been scattered in the ocean. Then I realized they commemorated people who had been lost at sea.
I stood just inside the rough lava rock wall and looked out at the water. I tried to envision the globe, with Hawaii as a series of specks in the large blue ocean. Until that moment, I’d avoided thinking how fragile life is.
I turned and looked immediately for my mom. The darkness had come so close to taking her from me, but I wasn’t ready to let her go yet.