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<b>Down South, Out West</b><br><i>Sir Bob Harvey’s son Fraser walks New Zealand’s Karekare<br>Photo by Dana Edmunds</i>
Vol. 17, no. 5
October/November 2014

 

All the Queen's Keiki 
Story By: Dave Choo
Photos By: Ryan T. Foley

It’s a hot July afternoon in Punalu‘u. In one corner of the campground, teenage boys and several twenty- and thirty-something uncles, who still move around like teenagers, are playing volleyball. Nearby, parents and grandparents sit in folding chairs under a canopy and talk story, while a couple of aunties spread out beach towels and lie under a fifty-foot tall banyan tree. A handful of younger kids mill around the banyan, trying to figure out the quickest—and likely the most hazardous—way to climb the tree.

It looks like any other weekend campout in Hawai‘i, but this is Grief Camp—an annual weekend of remembrance hosted by the Ko‘olau Poko Unit of the Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center. QLCC is an Island-wide social services agency whose mission is to support the orphaned and destitute children of Hawai‘i—particularly those of native ancestry—and their caregivers. Most everyone here has recently lost a son or daughter, husband or wife, an auntie or uncle. Yet there’s been little sadness at Grief Camp: The group spent the morning at nearby Kualoa Beach Park, learning about stellar navigation and wayfinding—the same techniques and knowledge that enabled the early Polynesians to find and settle tiny islands in vast sea, including those of Hawai‘i. They sailed canoes and played Makahiki games. Now they are getting some much-needed rest.

Bryan Amona isn’t shedding any tears, although no one would blame him if he did. Three years ago, he lost his daughter, Jasmine, to cancer. She left behind a daughter, Ka‘ula, who Bryan and his wife, Cynthia, cared for. Last year, Bryan’s 89-year-old mother passed away—on the same date that Jasmine died—and less than two weeks ago, Cynthia lost her long battle with a chronic respiratory illness.

Bryan’s still raw, but he wouldn’t have missed this camping trip for anything, because it fulfills a promise that he made to Jasmine, who had asked him to ensure that Ka‘ula, now ten, never forget her mother. That promise eventually led him to QLCC, where Bryan and Ka‘ula receive much-needed support.

“We knew she [Cynthia] was going to go soon, so this campout was supposed to be our last one together. Me not coming here wouldn’t have changed what happened to my wife,” says Amona. “I’m doing this for my daughter and granddaughter—and for the queen. She didn’t have any kids herself, but she had the foresight to start QLCC. I find that very, um, I don’t know how to describe it….” Amona motions to a nearby pavilion and a lei-draped portrait of Queen Lili‘uokalani. Next to the portrait is a table with flower arrangements and photos of loved ones who have passed away, including Jasmine and Cynthia.

“Ka‘ula loves coming here and being around other kids who have lost a mom or dad,” says Bryan. “They have a kinship together. It is very matter-of-fact, and the adults get together and we can talk. There are tears, sorrow and joy. When you go to the center, you can bring whatever you have, and it’s a safe place.”


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