Flowers on the Water
By Father Pat Killilea, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa
“To hear your voice, to see you smile, to sit and talk to you awhile.
To be together the same old way, that would be our greatest wish today.” -John Williamson
People were gathering at the Kalaupapa Pier (I call it Damien’s Landing) which is a stone’s throw from my front porch… that is, if one has a good arm. I watched as some vehicles pulled up in that vicinity and I wondered what was happening. Had someone caught a giant fish? Was one of the newly born monk seals frolicking in the water next to the dock? Had a mermaid surfaced and was putting on a show? What a “tail” that would be! Had Sister Barbara Jean been pulled into the water by a massive fish she had just hooked?
My curiosity eventually got the better of me and so I headed for the pier. On arriving, I saw that patients, nurses and others were tossing lei and flowers into the waters in memory of the patients who had been called to eternity. I should have known, since I had blessed these lei and flowers earlier that morning. That’s what happens when one turns 76.
“To hear you laugh, to hear you cry, or just a chance to say ‘goodbye.’
To say the things we didn’t say, that would be our greatest wish today.”
The day was June 30 and that morning we were celebrating a kind of freedom, freedom from the quarantine. We were celebrating the 51st anniversary of the lifting of the quarantine on the patients who had been confined to this Hansen’s disease settlement since they were originally sent here to live or to die. In 1969, the quarantine was lifted and they were now free to leave Kalaupapa and live elsewhere. Some did leave while others chose to live out their lives here. They considered this their home. Currently, we have five patients in residents here while seven others live in Honolulu in Hale Mohalu Care Home or with family.
From the pier, the participants proceeded to Papaloa Cemetery where they laid lei on the graves. It is there that we usually gather for a ceremony, but this year we had to limit our activities because of COVID-19. It had been a day of remembrance and of celebration.
“But all we can do is throw a flower on the water, look for the sun through the rain.
Lay a little frangipani gentle on the water, remember how we love you.”