Tonight, as Twilight set in, I quietly watched the offshore rains pour down into the Ocean. Beautiful Kāne embracing his brother, Kanaloa, trying to cleanse and wash away some of the hewa, 'eha and kaumaha floating around our islands lately. I quietly reflected upon the wise saying, or 'Ōlelo No'eau, about the power of words. I ka 'Ōlelo, no ke Ola, i ka Ōlelo, no ka Make. In the Word, there is Life. In the Word, there is Death. I remembered, somberly, a true example of this. Years ago, we had a very contentious burial case with a somewhat arrogant landowner, and an incensed burial council. There was much consternation and many arguments. One site visit in particular, ended in a shouting match between the landowner and the council chair. The black words were released into the air and couldn't be taken back. It all had to do with a landowner's perceived rights to do what he wanted with his land and the rights of the ancestors to rest, undisturbed, in their eternal place of repose.
During archaeological testing, more iwi kupuna were encountered. There was somewhat of a stalemate and an impasse. A young machine operator working on the property, backfilling a test trench, where iwi were discovered, was found injured. The machine was partially in the trench, and he was laid out on the machine treads with his chest crushed. He died. Nobody could figure out how it happened. When word of this occurrence made it back to the council, there was much 'eha and kaumaha. The biggest question was "Why him?" I had heard he was a young father as well with a wife and child. It bothered many of us, even though other incidences had happened in other cases. I prayed a lot for everyone involved.
It wasn't until years later, when a newspaper notice was published regarding the disposition of the burials which were finally going to the council for a determination of treatment, that we received a telephone call from a kupuna on a completely different island. She said she recognized the TMK in the notice, and when I described the parcel and island, she knew exactly where it was. She had grown up right there, across the street. We arranged to meet and we did.
This kupuna was in her eighties, and had a raspy voice. She brought her mo'opuna to the meeting. She talked about growing up there, and how hard life was, even catching doves and sparrows and cooking them over a fire to eat them because she was always hungry. She talked about her 'ohana. She talked about how sacred and kapu the burial area was where the burials were found, and where the landowner wanted to expand his business for more parking. She was not allowed to cross the street and play in that area because is was kapu, or forbidden.
She explained, as she showed us a birthmark on her left eye, that her grandmother carried the same birthmark on her eye, and how her mother used to scold her, to watch what she said. If she yelled at her younger brother, sometimes he would trip and fall, or sprain his ankle. Her words carried weight, like her grandmother, and she had to constantly be mindful of what she said, and to whom. She explained that her grandmother and grandfather were both buried on the parcel in question, and that a large stone with their names engraved onto it was located there as well. We never found the stone.
Then she told us that several years before she went to the island to visit family, and while she drove past her childhood home, she saw construction and heavy machinery. She stopped her car on the side of the road, and ran up to tell the machine operator, that her grandparents were buried there, and he needed to stop excavating. The operator told her that he wasn't going to stop because they had their permits and permission. She pleaded with him, but a policeman who was directing traffic in the area for adjacent roadwork, yelled at her to move her car off the road or he would tow it. She was distressed and upset and ran to her car, and drove to her 'ohana's house and told them the story. Neither of them knew about the burial laws, the island burial council, the Burial Sites Program, or anything of the sort. She said she felt so helpless. She felt grateful that there was a process and that now she could be a part of protecting the burial area. She wasn't sure if her grandparents' graves were still there or excavated or destroyed already.
I started getting chills. I asked her if she could remember the date she went to the island and confronted the machine operator. She thought, and thought, and then gave me the month and year it occurred with great certainty. I jotted it down as my co-worker looked at me with a puzzled look. We parted eventually and returned to the office.
I went straight to the file cabinet with this case file and opened it up, going through the many papers in the file. I finally found what I was looking for and another chill ran up my spine. It was the newspaper article about the death of the machine operator. I took it to my co-worker. I showed him the article, then pulled out my notepad. It was the same month, and year that this kupuna confronted the machine operator, that he passed away shortly thereafter. It all made sense now. The connectivity in Life, of unexplained tragedy, and cause and effect. My co-worker and I looked at each other in silence. Mourning the death of a young father. The desecration of the sacred. The fighting and arguments. There were no winners here. I didn't have the heart to say anything to this kupuna about what had happened to the machine operator after her admonishment. Nobody needs that to carry around for the rest of your Life.
So in Life, I am often reminded that our words have Life and Power. Some people have more Mana and Power in their words. Even our thoughts can manifest into actual events. I have experienced this from time to time and it frightens me. I inherited a temper from my Father, and try my best to keep positive, kind and loving words flowing from my mouth. When incensed, I can spew forth the most vitriolic evil from my lips. When I cross into rage, and light my imu of war, I don't just burn everything and everyone around me, I incinerate flesh and bone. I am not proud of it. Like the 'ohe hanu ihu, or nose flute, only my nasal breath is clean and of Ke Akua's Ha. I have to keep my anger, my mouth and even my thoughts in check constantly.
I know the written word also carries such power as well. To manifest. I have written words as tears flowed, only to be told by different people that tears flowed when they read it. I know the emotion embeds in the word, and transfers as well. Social media just adds more words, and more dispersal far and wide. Bullying hurts. Bullying kills as we have seen recently with the loss of young life at their own desperate forsaken hands. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will only hurt, and sometimes kill me.
So we must choose our words carefully. We pray that those who pass on, young and old, leave with kindness, forgiveness and compassion, and not scorn, contempt and hate as the last messages and words they heard before departing. I know of many regretful individuals haunted by their unknowing last words to others who suddenly left this Realm unexpectedly. Be Kind. Lift Up. Forgive. We are All Walking, Talking, Waking, Breathing, Crying, Laughing One in a Trillion Star Dust Miracles. Never Forget About Amazing You. You the Healer. Not You the Destroyer. You. The Healer...