Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 3, 2022

Light 2022

My Popo passed away toward the end of the hungry ghost festival last year.

This year, my parents, uncles, and aunts were all new agey, so they refused to light the lotus lantern and cast it on the waters to send Popo back to the afterlife. I was so mad I remember yelling at them that they were only Cantonese when it suited them. Otherwise, they were always kissing ass to the gweilo because they so desperately wanted to be white. My parents did not take too kindly to that, and to the relief of my aunts and uncles, my folks beat my ass. However, that did not take away from the fact that they disrespected my Popo. While I was restricted to my room for punishment, I went online and learned how to make a lotus lantern. It was not as complicated as I thought. The second I was off restriction, I took the elevator to the lobby, ran across ala wai park with my lotus lantern, and lit the flame before gently placing it on the water and giving it a little push. Thank goodness it was already dark. I watched as it gently floated toward the Kalakaua bridge before the convention center. It was the only beacon-like flame on the water, and my heart was filled with so much happiness that I got to do this for my Popo. However, as the lotus lantern passed under the bridge, the flame inside went out.

 "No, no, no!" I screamed. "Nooooo....!!!"

I failed. I failed my Popp; the lotus lantern didn't stay lit until it went out into the deep ocean. All my blustering and complaining for nothing. "I'm sorry, Popo, I'm sorry!"

"Why are you sorry?" A hand rested gently on my shoulder. My dad looked down at me and smiled like nothing was wrong with the world.

"The fire went out in the lantern," I cried. "I failed,"

"You did not fail," my dad insisted. "For as much as you accuse us of being more gweilo than Cantonese, you could stand to learn a few things yourself. For instance, you cast the lotus lantern onto the water and watch it because that is someone who is now your ancestor, like your Popo. When the flame goes out, someone like Popo has returned to the realm of the ancestors. You did not fail her; you did as tradition dictates,"

"If you know that, then why don't you want to light the lotus lantern this year?" I asked.

With a long sigh, my dad said, "It hurts too much. When your Popo died, a part of me also died. That woman was a large part of my life, and I did not realize that until she was gone. So, I tell you what. Until I am done hurting, you can be responsible for lighting the lotus lantern every year for your Popo. how's that?"

"I like that," I replied. "A lot."

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