Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 5, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #87

My father always smelled like the ocean. He joked that he was more fish than he was human.
His knowledge of the sea gave him a better understanding of people, don't ask me how, but he had an uncanny ability to read people. He would work for hours on his nets, his spears, and his lures that he made himself. He taught me not to carry the burden of the throw net, but to bear its intent, its spirit. He taught me the prayers to Kanaloa so that our godly ancestor would accept the throw net into his realm and thereby allow you to feed your family. He was a kind and loving father, one that I never wanted to disappoint. One night and many years into my adult life, I had a vision of my father standing at the edge of a reef armed with a shimmering throw net. When he cast it out into the vast night sky, it became the stars decorating the heavens. I knew then that it was time to return home.


The services were filled with tears because although the occasion hurt the hearts of many in attendance, there was also joy in seeing family and friends that one would not otherwise see under normal circumstances. The food was a vibrant mix of Japanese and Okinawan favorites along with lau lau and hand made poi. The 'opihi was fresh from the rocks of Lanai, and the hāʻuke' uke made the experienced fisherman gather in line to partake of its salty flavor. People held on to one another while stories were shared, which were sometimes sad, and other times uproarious. But this is what the passing of a beloved one does, it takes people away from their mundane lives for a few hours and unites them under one cause, and that is to mourn and remember. So, they have all come to remember and to grieve. Uncles, Aunts, cousins, neighbors, classmates, old friends; have all gathered to give eulogies, which they have difficulty getting through. They sing old Hawaiian songs that they canʻt complete. One musician sees the other crying, and the entire set comes apart. Miraculously, no one is upset. Everyone understands.

Over the coffin laid and spread out is my fatherʻs favorite fishing net. Remnants of older fishing nets passed down from countless generations or either tied into or tied around some part of it. Looking at it, one can feel the mana emanating from itʻs eyes. I remember how my father told me that the ʻūpena in our family, was made with the hands and the necessary material, but with pule or prayer as well. Finally, he has arrived, his dark suit and tie look as if it were meant for him. One would never guess that his days were spent in the sun measuring the passage of time by the ocean currents and the mere feel of the wind. Yet, here he was, his hair cut as if he were a serious business or preacher. His dark complexion is a stark contrast to his shock of white hair, but in any social situation, he would cut a beautiful figure of a man. Rugged, forthright, and penitent to his personal beliefs. His family chided him for not going to church with them, but his retort was to tell them that the spirits and gods of his people have never lead him to do wrong. All that he needed was provided by them through his own kind of filial piety. "I donʻt need a wooden structure to tell me that," he told them. Ever the rebel, my father.

He bends over at the waist and kisses me on my forehead, tears fill his eyes, and his body begins to shake. "I will see you again my son, we will throw the ʻūpena into the night sky and make more stars in the heavens. Alia ʻiki, wait for me until then."

In the final viewing, my father closes the casket, and the services are complete. People wail and cry unabashedly while others hold them steady as their legs go weak. The pallbearers, who are my stout young nephews, bear me aloft with my father leading the way. I am brought to the far east corner of our Waiʻanae property, where a spot has been prepared for me. It is there that I am laid to rest, to keep my bones close to the hale. I am one with the lepo from which I came.

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