Memorial Day Memories

 Above: Akamai sporting the American Flag along with the 21 gun salute memorial flag that honored his late papa, Junior T. Afalla.

Above: Akamai sporting the American Flag along with the 21 gun salute memorial flag that honored his late papa, Junior T. Afalla.

To most, Memorial Day is a day off from work. Its a day to spend time with your family and friends because its another holiday to take advantage of. But have you really thought about the meaning of this special day? Memorial Day is a day on which those who died in active military service are remembered, traditionally observed on May 30 but now officially observed on the last Monday in May. 

 Above: Plumeria flowers.

Above: Plumeria flowers.

I remember when I was little my family would gather flowers from our garden like orchids to plumerias- that yellow and white fragrant flower you often would smell when walking through the outside corridor of the Honolulu International Airport. We would make small floral arrangements that were highlighted with tea leaf greens and palapalai, a beautiful green fern often found in the mountains of Hawaii. Dad would gather some newspaper and we would roll up each flower arrangement and place them in a bucket for transport. He would also bring his garden shears, a jar of coconut oil that he made from raw coconuts, and a paintbrush. I'll tell you more about that later. Mom and my sisters would be in the kitchen making tuna fish sandwiches for our picnic along with a bag of chips, and a big jug of fruit punch juice.

 Above: A photo example of what Memorial Day looks like in Hawaii.

Above: A photo example of what Memorial Day looks like in Hawaii.

We would load the truck and make our way to the various cemeteries on Oahu honoring our relatives who served for our country as well as those who didn't serve. Memorial Day in Hawaii is the one day where you would see tons of flowers in the cemetaries. And I mean TONS! I don't think I've ever been to a cemetary that had this many flowers honoring their loved ones. In the Hawaiian culture we honor our loved ones who are at rest. Sometimes you'll see headstones with elaborate flower arrangements utilizing anything from teddybears to balloons. And the Asian culture would often leave fruit on the headstones honoring their loved ones. 

 Above: Lauhala mat.

Above: Lauhala mat.

We would drive from one end of the island to the other visiting the cemeteries.. Dad would take out his gardening sheers and trim the grass that slightly covered the edges of the headstones. He would brush some coconut oil on them so they would shine and look new again. Then we would all hold hands and while Dad would lead us in prayer. The last grave that we would visit is my grandmother's grave - Dad's mom. We would lay out our lauhala mat, a handmade mat made from incredibly strong palm leaves, and sit next to grandma's grave. Mom would take out the sandwiches, chips and juice and we enjoy our time in this beautifully floral cemetery. Dad would tell us stories of those who had passed on and as children would often do, we would ask tons of questions about those loved ones.

 Above: Me with Dad before he left for second tour to Vietnam.

Above: Me with Dad before he left for second tour to Vietnam.

Now that I live on the mainland, I don't have the luxury of visiting my loved ones so I would use technology by sending my sister some money to purchase flowers and place them on my parent's and sister, Mimi's headstone. Looking back, the memories that my parent's made for us still live in all of us. I'm very grateful for my Dad who sacrificed over 21 years of his life serving our great country. This also includes uncles and cousins, even females, who served in various branches of the United States Armed Forces. Today, I honor my family members who served our country and also my friends particularly Susie Coit-Williams- my best friend at work who served in the Air Force and who's been there for me when times were rough. And to my late father:

"Dad, I think about you every day and I'm so grateful for the sacrifices you've made both for your country and your family. I love you."