Floating Lantern Ceremony Returns

By Jack Kiyonaga, Community Reporter

Photo by Jack Kiyonaga.

Last Saturday, Molokai residents gathered at the Community Health Center to commemorate loss. Under the sprawling banyan tree, community members created and decorated their own lanterns in remembrance of those who have died. 

After songs, taiko drums, hula and food, people took to the shores with their lanterns. Wading into the thick silt, they placed the lanterns in the water and watched them float into the sunset. Special lanterns were made to commemorate Dr. Gregory LaGoy, long-term CEO of Hospice Maui, Dr. William Thomas of Molokai General Hospital, Aloha Island Air Flight 1712, victims of COVID, suicide, violence, and natural disasters as well as service members. 

The night was a co-sponsored event between Hospice Maui and Molokai’s Guzeiji Soto Mission.

Hospice Maui CEO Melanie Dwyer explained how the night represented a way to “process grief in a healthy way.” 

For Dwyer, supporting this “very special and unique night” was a way to continue assisting families grieving from loss. 

The night was intended to “create a memorable loving event for people to gather, participate and enjoy the journey of life after loss,” explained Barbara Helm, the Bereavement Coordinator for Hospice Maui and an organizer of the event. 

“This is a night that we all come together for one reason, we have lost loved ones. Friends, family, coworkers. This is an event for us to remember them,” said Helm.  

And while the ceremony had taken place over Zoom the last two years due to COVID, there was palpable excited over the return to an in-person event. 

“After a two-year hiatus, we’re back… it was nice to see everybody get together” added Lisa Takata, president of the Guzeiji Soto Mission.

Additionally, Takata and Helm both stressed that the ceremony was a combination of community efforts. 

Residents from Oahu, Maui and Molokai made up the ranks of volunteers. 

“Many hands create this event,” said Helm. 

That night, I made a lantern for a friend of mine. Like everyone else lining the shore, I watched as the lanterns dimmed and bent in the wind. And tried one last time to say goodbye. 


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