In the film “Native of Owhyhee” on ‘Ōlelo Community Television an individual made the following comment: “For the Hawaiian, Ancestral spirits are not spirits that once existed in the past and are gone. They are present now!” To me that rings true. Are those Elders of our family who are departed suddenly no longer members of our family? Of course not! The heart loves who it loves and it is that loving which makes them and us “family”.
Without physicality spirit lives in a different kind of reality no longer limited by a body defined by time and space. So those who are “gone” are not actually gone… they are just “present” in a different way. The fact is that relationships are not dependent upon proximity or geography. When a child goes off to college and no longer lives in the house with his family, do they stop being part of the family just because they’re not physically present? Of course not!
ʻOhana is the Hawaiian word for family, but what is family actually? In reality family is more than just the one we are born into. It is also the one we make with someone else. Two people marry and make a new family, or two friends share the intimacy characteristic of a family, whether or not they are married. In the end there are certain traits that are characteristic of the bond we call “family”: acceptance of the other, support of the other, compassion extended to the other, faithfulness to the other.
And yet that bond characteristic of family needs to be tended to with conscious care for words spoken with the intent of hurting can, in fact, harm that bond. In ancient Hawaiʻi a kahuna ʻanāʻanā could pray for death or counter another’s death prayer. I recently came across a Hawaiian saying that speaks to this point: “I ka ʻōlelo no ke ola, I ka ʻōlelo no ka make”. The direct translation given for this saying is: “In speech is life, in speech is death.” This tells Hawaiians that words can either be a source of healing or destroying and so we need to be careful with our words.”
How true indeed! Words can either deepen the bond of family-ness with another, or sever the union of hearts and commitment to one another. If we truly love someone then we should choose our words to them wisely and with consciousness. Never ever utter words to them in anger, which is an acid of the soul that destroys the vessel that contains it, as well as those upon whom it is cast.