Ash Wednesday is the one day of the year that brings me to church. I love the sentiment of focusing energy on one of the three things that the Catholic Church emphasizes during Lent, alms. The concept of alms is to humbly help people in need, with monetary donations or volunteering your time and energy in some way. Officially, Ash Wednesday is observed through fasting, abstinence from meat (cow and fowl) and repentance. For Pi’i, Ash Wednesday is about contemplating the past year and being deliberate about how I want to be in the year to come. Living the Aloha Spirit is the goal. The Aloha Spirit is about giving back selflessly, just as I interpret the concept of giving alms. So Ash Wednesday becomes a mash-up of the sparse religious education I received as a child, the values my parents imparted on me and the Aloha Spirit that I have adopted as a part of my life.
“The Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the Self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, Aloha, the following unuhi laulâ loa (free translation) may be used:
A – Akahai, meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness;
L – Lôkahi, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;
O – `Olu`olu, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;
H – Ha`aha`a, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;
A – Ahonui, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.
These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii.
Aloha is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation.
Aloha means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return.
Aloha is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.
Aloha means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.” http://www.atchawaii.com/LocalInfo/alohaspirit.html
I say all that because in 2015, my Ash Wednesday took me on an emotional roller coaster of sorts, as I meditated on my 2014 and envisioned what I wanted for the coming year. This week is packed with celebrations. The country observed the legal President’s Day holiday on the heels of the very commercialized Valentine’s Day. Then Ash Wednesday popped up, earlier than I expected. And the day after, we celebrate Lunar New Year, the anniversary of when I launched this blog. On a personal note, this Saturday is my father’s 80th birthday and we will all be together to eat a big meal and share some laughs. These are all pleasant occurrences, filled with giggles and celebrations and tradition. But this year on Ash Wednesday, I also felt sadness for a friend and a family member.
Today, I signed a condolence card for my friend at work. Her mother passed away last weekend. I know her mom has been ill for a while but I am sure she and her family were not prepared for this loss. To make matters worse, her mother lives 2,000 miles away in Ohio. There are no words of comfort that feel sincere, in my opinion, when writing on a Hallmark card. I would prefer to just hug my friend or hold her hand or just sit in silence with her. But I can’t so I wrote words on the Hallmark card to try to convey the sentiment that I feel for her.
That brings me to another death that our extended family has experienced recently and added a funeral to our week of celebrations. My extended family, a second cousin, experienced the most horrific thing a mother could possibly experience. She came home from work in the early evening to discover that her teenaged daughter had committed suicide. The details aren’t important as to how it happened, the only thing that matters is that her daughter is gone. I don’t know her daughter really well and I haven’t spent much time with this cousin since I’ve moved away from the Central Coast. But I am a mother of a teenaged daughter and our girls are only a few weeks apart in age and I know they had played together during numerous family reunions and baptisms and parties. And I can’t stop thinking about how much it must hurt.
The teenage years are incredible difficult. Peer pressure, hormones, Asian mothers, all impart incredible amounts of stress and uncertainty and confusion for a teen. I am sure that this young woman also had some sort of additional emotional challenges to deal with, as if being a teenager isn’t hard enough. Perhaps she needed medication but stopped taking it. Maybe she had a therapist that she couldn’t connect to or feel comfortable enough to truly share. Who knows what triggered this young woman to do what she did. I just hurt at the loss of her young life and I ache for the pain her mother must be feeling.
Thankfully, the second card I signed at work was for a baby shower. Another friend who I worked with six years ago is finally pregnant. She and her husband dated long distance for a couple of years before they moved in together. We used to go to lunch and I would outline my dating adventures while she would listen and laugh. For some reason, my friends found my dating life to be more entertaining than reality TV. I am happy to have a reminder that life goes on, despite the pain that others are experiencing. And as the season of Lent begins, I am holding my daughter a little closer and taking a more deliberate approach to living the Aloha Spirit. I also am giving up booze and baked goods. If I fall off the Lenten wagon, expect a big financial donation to a non-profit to come. The happy news of my friend and her husband expecting a baby brought me back to the Aloha Spirit, “the coordination of mind and heart within each person…Each person must think and emote good feelings to others.”