Kalaupapa Goodbyes

Opinion by Father Pat Killilea, St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa

It must have been about 9:30 p.m. and I had settled in bed for the night when it came to me by way of the voices of Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli, “Time to say goodbye….” I have no idea why this melody floated into my consciousness. In this song written for Andrea, the duo are saying goodbye to countries they have never shared with each other, but now they are in fact going to these countries on ships which don’t exist anymore. So, it’s time to say goodbye again. The opening verse is in Italian and I have only a couple of words of Italian in my vocabulary. Still, that melody stayed with me as I slipped into the arms of Morpheus (God of sleep and dreams).

My mother loved to remind me that, on leaving my family house in the company of my older sister and brother for my very first day at school at age four, I kept looking back and calling out, “Goodbye, Dad.” Evidently, I was not exactly thrilled with the idea of going to school and used this outburst, “Goodbye, Dad,” to express my dissatisfaction especially to my good mother. This is notable since I would spend the next 21 years in school with the encouragement of both of my parents.

Saying goodbye is not easy for most people, unless one is saying goodbye to someone who is not exactly a bosom friend. I have never taken to saying goodbye since that memorable morning in the year 1948. This was the same day that I was accused of throwing a stone at Mrs. Maguire’s shed on the way home from school. Over the many years, when I left home after a vacation with my family, I could not bring myself to say goodbye to my parents and family. Rather, I would say, “See you next year.”

In Kalaupapa we know each other by first names though perhaps not by family names. That is perhaps a feature of a small close community. So, the comings and goings make the news and cause a stir especially when one of our members lets it be known that he or she is soon to say goodbye. Farewell parties have been a part of the fabric of Kalaupapa during the eight plus years that I’ve been blessed to live and minister in the land of St. Damien and St. Marianne. I have been invited to offer a prayer of blessing at many of these farewell dinner parties. Indeed, I could very well write a book of blessings for these occasions. While I pray blessings to rain down on the departing person as well as the party participants, much more rains down complements of Mr. Heineken, Ms. Corona, Jack Daniels and Buddy Bailey. A sumptuous supply of foods is provided to absorb these liquid blessings.

It is when someone is leaving on a jet plane to begin a new life on the mainland or elsewhere in distant lands that our heart strings are tested. That brings tears rolling down cheeks. To stem the tears, we may say, “Farewell for now,” but underneath this veneer, we know that it is time to say goodbye. Aloha.


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