On one of my trips my brother Dan and I went to the Royal Mausoleum in Nu’uanu. As I descended the steps down to the burial crypt I could see draped on the iron gates in the doorway a lei that someone had left in honor of those buried within. I felt reverence as I stood there and prayed in that resting place for Hawaiʻi’s past Kings and Queens who struggled with the complex issues of being faithful to be Hawaiian, and to being a part of the non-Hawaiian world.
The dictionary defines “reverence” as “A feeling of profound awe and respect, and often love; veneration.” As I stood there, looking at that lei and trying to imagine the feelings which prompted that person to leave the lei I wondered “Why do we or don’t we express reverence?” As I thought about that while listening to the birds around and staring at the Royal crypts I realized that at the heart of reverence is a sense of gratitude and that without a sense of gratitude we will not revere anything but ourselves.
To be grateful implies that one realizes they have received a gift bestowed on them which was neither deserved nor earned. And as I stood there staring at that lei I thought of all the dried leis in my bedroom at home which I refer to as my “Hawaiʻi Lei Shrine”. I guess I have them there like that because I do feel a great sense of gratitude that God has exposed me to Hawaiʻi. So my dried leis hang there both as an expression of my gratitude to God and as a visual reminder to where it seems my journey is leading me in 7 years; a gift that is neither deserved nor earned.
Some might think, “What was the point of that person leaving that lei like that? The dead will never know they did it.” My response is, “Don’t be so sure.” The receptacles that carried their mana are there in that tomb and I would not be at all surprised to find out when I finally cross over that our spirit does maintain some kind of relationship with our bodies beyond their parting from one another.
But more than that, it was important for that person to express respect, reverence, and gratitude, to honor those who went before and whose lives made possible a Hawaiʻi in which to live today. With apologies to President John Kennedy, I suspect that the Kings and Queens of Hawaiʻi fully understood “Ask not what Hawaiʻi can do for you, but what you can do for Hawaiʻi.” Mahalo nui loa.