Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 17, 2023

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2023. #26 Ka wai pili i ka'ili

 Love unfolded beneath the light rain as the winds gently swept it across the ridge where we stood.

Without thinking, we removed our clothing and held our faces upward as the mist covered our forms from head to toe. Glancing at her, I saw how the yellow of the late afternoon sun illuminated the misty rain on her skin like a fine sheen on a leaf of liko from a lehua tree. If I wasn't in love with her before, I certainly was now. I needed to imprint this image of her bathing in the elemental rain in all her natural beauty. This was our moment together for these few seconds. This is where we were married, by the sun, the rolling clouds, and the wind-swept rains. The Ko'olaus stood witness to our love, while two Iwa birds floating high above stayed with us, circling until the sun went down and it was time to go. On the drive home, we held hands, saying nothing because we were still immersed in the beauty of what transpired. We had every intention of preparing dinner when we returned home; instead, we fed each other from a charcuterie board leftover from the night before. Cheese squares, green olives, folds of salami, and cherry tomatoes. We sipped from the same glass of wine until we ventured to the love chair in our living room, promising to fall asleep after our lovemaking. We'd shower in the morning because it wasn't every day that the gods anointed you with a gift of their own creation. I teased her, saying that I didn't want to wash away what our love made. 

"If you want to go around smelling like fish the rest of the day, that's up to you," she nuzzled her nose under my neck. "That was powerful and very unexpected. Just us and the elements. No fanfare, no soundtrack, that was mana,"

This was the course of our life together, moments replete with nature-defining essential events. The heavens pealed thunder and lightning on a clear blue afternoon when she graduated with her doctorate. The day I stood with my family and friends, refusing to let a construction crew enter a sacred burial spot on the east side, the police and military authorities were prepared to arrest us and do more. Then, the sky turned black, and torrential rains poured down like sheets, washing away the dirt and exposing the bones of our kupuna for all to see. They couldn't hide anything and sweep it under the rug. The site was shut down for a year until everything was sorted out. She and I were also flying to Molokai when the twin engines died. The baby-faced pilot, who looked twelve years old, informed us that we were going down and that he was doing his best to land us on the water as safely as possible but that we should be prepared. No sooner had he said that than did his co-pilot shout for him to look at what was ahead of us. We all saw it, it was the runway, it was just suddenly there. We flew smack dab over the channel precisely between Oahu and Molokai a second ago, and now we were touching down on the tarmac. 

These memories visit themselves through my mind as I re-live them so vividly. Ka-wai-pili-i-ka-'ili, my wife, passed in her sleep after a long bout with cervical cancer. They caught it too late. While I wept like an infant in the doctor's office, and I'm sure the doctor did too. My wife said, "I've had a good run; my life has been nothing but happiness, and our ancestors have given us so much," She first gave the doctor a reassuring pat on his shoulder. To me, she placed her palm on the back of my neck and brought me closer to her until our foreheads touched. "I have no regrets, my love," we kissed for so long before she finally said to me, "Bring my ashes to the place where our gods blessed us,"

Here, on the ridge overlooking timelessly carved rock descending to a bottomless darkness, I waited until the late afternoon sun lent its dramatic light to the area. The fine mist or rain swept through everything, as it did thirty years previous. That was the ho'ailona to open the pu'olo and cast Kawai's ashes to the wind. The gods lifted her remains and carried her west, toward the setting sun, to the realm of the ancestors.

Photo Credit: Jackson Groves

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