Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 29, 2018

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2018 #32


I hate these occasions because they bring out the worst in people.
It's a time when people suddenly become selfish and self-centered. Some unknown force graces them with a mantle of stupidity, and they wear it as if it were their right to be atrocious. I sit and give my thoughts and intentions for whom this gathering is meant, my brother. His passing was unfair in the scheme of fate and other things; he had a wealth of plans and years ahead of him, a carved-out path, if you will. He'd been on his way home from Wellington to take care of one more matter before he embarked on his journey. In his heart, he'd meant to tell our mother that although she did not approve of his lifestyle, he would love her no matter what, even if she should never accept him as her son again. It would have been three in the morning our time when the flight from New Zealand crossed the vast Pacific to Hawai'i as our ancient ancestors once did in a time that had no beginning. My brother asked for a blanket from the flight attendant, who had given him one that was her own. They were out of the regular sheets, and the young woman assured my brother that he could keep the one she'd given him. It didn't seem to bother him that the mantle was black; he was too tired to notice. It was large enough to cover him from his feet up until his neck. He had settled himself, and in less than a minute, he immediately fell into a deep sleep from which he would never wake.

Now you see that I am attending his funeral services. It's a circus, a mockery, a farce as I watch people who cry with no real affection for Timoteo. That's his name. It's vexing to see my mother express her love for him while he lay there in his casket when it is well known that she had disowned him. It's for the show, of course. It's to gain sympathy for herself as the grieving mother. If the crowd only knew how she'd consulted a Kahuna to curse Timoteo, only to be told that the curse would backfire because of their blood relation, they would spit on her.


She should be lying dead in that casket with only her civic club friends in attendance and the few men she'd slept with. Be that as it may, no one has thought to acknowledge Timoteo's husband, Rua. He's not even offered a seat with my siblings and mother in the receiving line. They won't look at him. I sit next to Rua and offer him a hug, and he understands the situation.

"Bloody worse where I come from," he chuckles. " I couldn't even show my face at my grandfather's tangihanga."

The sharing of thoughts and remembrances are carefully worded at best so as not to shed light on who Timoteo was. What he was, was my brother, and that's all anyone had to know. My mother is helped from her chair as she approaches the podium to deliver the eulogy. She removes a one-paged letter from her purse and purposely takes her time in unfolding the paper. If the tribute is as insufferable as her dramatics, I won't be able to sit through a sentence of it. Rua senses my ire and whispers, "We're here for Timoteo; nothing else matters."

At this point, I must tell you that I cannot recall what my mother said in her eulogy to Timoteo because the moment she began to speak, there was a high-pitched ringing sound in my ears. It gave me a terrible headache and caused my vision to blur. Behind my mother was a tall, wooden stand carved out of a monkeypod. Toward the top, it opened into a natural bowl shape that held water and a bouquet of Makahala, a favorite of Timoteo's. Through the haze of my headache, I heard my mother say, "I loved him and always accepted him for who he was," at the same time, I saw a shadow come from behind my brother's casket and push the one pieced wooden standover. It fell at a right angle, not only hitting my mother on her head but pinning her under it. Just as the entire funeral parlor broke into screams and shrieks of horror, my mind cleared. Rua was in a state of shock, and his fingers were digging into my arm, "Did you see that? Did you fucking see that?"

"I'm not sure," I replied. "What did you see?"

"Timoteo! His....his ghost came out of the casket and pushed that flower stand on your mum!" He hissed.

"I'm not crazy, then?" I sighed with relief. "Did anyone else see it?"

"No," Rua replied. "I think it was just you and I."


We did our best to contain our laughter, but to no avail; we stole our way outside, where the food was served. Helping ourselves to a heap of everything, we sat at the far end table and stuffed our faces. The grief of all that was wrong today dehydrated our systems, so we ate and drank with ravenous intent. A minute later, my oldest brother Drake blistered into the eating hall with his shoulders and chest puffed out in his suit. His eyes were red with tears, "Let's go; you up next. You have to say something while the EMT looks at mom outside!" He stood there and waited until I put my fork down and stood up.

I grabbed Rua and pulled him out of his chair, "Let's go."

"Uh, I don't want to upset the family," Rua hesitated.

"He's my brother, but he's your husband!" I poked my finger in his coat. "You have every fucking right to say something! Get off your ass!"

No one was prepared for the chant I offered; it was not a Kanikau or a dirge. That's not what Timoteo wanted. He requested something fun and uplifting, so my chant was about a bird caught in an empty nest with a long beak. He has no idea how to fill an empty nest with his long beak, but he certainly knows how to fill the long beaks of other birds like him and is thereby skilled at quenching their thirst. The looks on everyone's faces were priceless. I turned then to look at Rua and urged him forward.

"This haka is about a place in New Zealand called Ruaumoko. It's where I met my husband, Timoteo. It's about the god of earthquakes, volcanoes, and seasons. It has a personal meaning for us, it's where we created many earthquakes together," Tears stained Rua's cheeks, but the second he took his position and allowed himself to pukana and meld into warrior mode, he'd become someone else. The haka he unleashed devastated the congregation into silence. Still, after, everyone crowded around Rua to hug him and asked why he was not announced on the program as Timoteo's husband? He was asked to give an impromptu eulogy in the food hall despite what the rest of my family thought.

"For all Timeteo shared with me about his life, upbringing, and hardships. He was a man who was filled with love, genuine love. I saw it every day. Pulling over to the side of the road to give money or food to a homeless man. Lending his car to my brothers to drive until they could find their own vehicle. He did this knowing that my family didn't approve of our relationship. I couldn't understand that, but he always said that despite what people think or say when they require help, you help them. I never understood that, and it frustrated me to no end." Rua shook his head. "However, my family may not have liked him, but they grew to respect him. Timoteo didn't want to say anything until he got home...................but he'd come down with colon cancer, and he wanted to come to Hawai'i and tell his mother that he loved her. Whether she accepted that or not didn't matter to him, he just wanted her to know that. Before we left Aotearoa, my family surprised us by throwing him a party. They gifted him with so many things, family heirlooms and such. Things that I thought would never be imparted to anyone. "We're your family now," my mother told him. "Our ancestors are now yours. As you've loved and watched over Rua, we now, living and dead, will watch over you."
The last time I saw him alive was when he left to board his flight....." Rua could not continue after because he broke down crying, as did we all. The rest of my family never accepted him, but I did. I had a brother from an extended family as far as I was concerned. That's not to say they were not shamed by everyone else who attended; of course, they were. However, the question remains, if Timoteo was a man of compassion and aloha, why did his ghost push the heavy wooden stand on top of our mother?  Well, he detested liars in all forms, even if that form came in the guise of the woman who gave him life.

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