My Grandmother, or tutu as we say in Hawaii, was the center of our entire family. Around 50 close relatives, and 250 extended relatives to be exact. She has always been the center of my life and there's not a single day that goes by that I don't think of her, even 17 years after her death. She was of pure Hawaiian descent, and growing up with her as a child was supernatural in the biggest sense.
I have many stories to share, all of them entirely true and I will tell them to the best of my ability. All of them are deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture and spiritual beliefs, so please read this with an open mind if you are not kanaka ma'oli.
I have contemplated whether it was right to share this on social media, but I find that this is my opportunity to share her with the world. She has had many experiences in her lifetime which I have been gathering from family members, but these are stories that I have had the honor to experience. I'll do my best to keep them short. If I need to clarify anything, please leave a comment below. I have others to share as well, if you care to hear more.
Story #1: A Fireball Visits Our Home.
In the year 1991, when I was just 5 years old, an Akualele (Ah-kooh-ah-lay-lay), or fireball, visited our home. Being so young at the time I can only remember bits and pieces, but they have been validated by other family members who were there that night.
My tutu and I were sitting in the living room watching television. This also served as her bedroom. There were beds all over the house as from time to time relatives would come to stay or sleep for night. It was one of those dial switch TV's with only 7 channels. My older cousin was in his bedroom which was near the living room. All of a sudden I heard my cousin yelling for my grandma. He runs into the living room. "Tutu, what is that?" He points out the window which was behind the TV. I sat up and went to the window and peeked in between the jalousies. What I saw I could never forget. A ball of fire was moving above the mango trees in our back yard. It was literally gliding over the trees and towards the windows. I remember how bright it was, it had a long black tail trailing behind with sparks of red flickering around it. It was big and it was loud. Never seeing something like this before, I thought it had come from the sky.
As it got closer I felt the hands of my grandma wrap around my chest as she pulled me away from the window. Her voice filled with raspiness, she shouts "AKUALELE." She yells to my cousin "Grab the salt! Go Now!" My cousin runs to the kitchen and grabs a big bag of Hawaiian salt and begins throwing it out of the bag. I remember feeling the big rocks hitting the back of my legs. I slid behind my grandma as the fireball begins ducking back and forth between the two windows, as if it were trying to get a look at us.
Next thing I remember is her cursing at the thing in Hawaiian. She shouts louder and louder and louder until the thing stops, and explodes right in front of my eyes. It was just one loud pop, and it was gone.
Years later as my cousin and I were recalling the story, he explains to me that the Akualele was sent to us from another Hawaiian family who lived further down the road. The grandmother of their family was jealous of my grandmother, as we had recently obtained more land to expand our coffee farm. What I didn't remember was that I fell deathly ill for the next two days, and my grandmother only left my side once to go talk to the family so they could come to an agreement. After giving offerings and sharing each others breath, she returned home to find her granddaughter alive and well, as if I were never sick at all.
Story #2: The Aumakua (ow-ma-kooah) that Saved My Uncle.
This happened in the year 1995 when I was just 9 years old. The best thing about where I lived, which was in Captain Cook (south Kona), was that many of my family lived on the same road. I had a girl cousin who lived a five minute walk from our home, past my uncle and aunty's house, and through a grove of banana trees and thick elephant grass (yeah ouch). I would spend the night there alot, she was like my best friend.
One night I arrived there as the sun was going down. She was outside on her front porch, crying. Her sister was draped over her body and they were consoling each other over something. I ran up to her and asked what was wrong. She says "It's my dad, he's sick." I went up the stairs and was about to enter the living room when my aunt peeked her head out of their bedroom door, warning me to stay outside. I began to cry, as any child my age would do in an unknown situation as this. I asked what was wrong, but could already hear the moans and wails coming out of my uncle's lips.
His father was a Filipino man and he was sitting on his usual rocking chair, this time holding a bowl in his two hands. Hovering over it, examining it. I went to him to examine it myself. As I passed the walkway into the living room I peeked into my uncle's room. My aunty was ringing out a towel over his head. The bed sheets covered in his sweat. He was not moving, barely breathing. His father was holding a bowl of water. In the bottom of the bowl was a thin later of raw white rice. He points to the two flecks of rice floating at the top of the water. "Oh no, no good. No can help my boy," he says in his constant broken English.
He looks up to finally notice that I was there. He grabs my arm tight, as if to show me that I need to listen now with utmost importance. "Go to your tutu. Bring her now, my boy going "make'" (mah-kay).
I ran back towards my our house. I remember the feeling of my lungs ripping out of my chest. I ran into the living room and called out to my grandma. "Tutu come!" It's uncle Dickey (short for Richard)." I ran back outside as my grandmother gets up. She takes a machete and chops down a bundle of Ti leaves. My grandfather starts up the work truck and we take off towards my cousins' house. My grandmother goes into the living room, my Filipino uncle stays silent.
I remember sitting outside with my cousins, trying to console them in their grief. We sat on the side of the porch, our legs dangling between the railings. I could hear my uncle muttering in tongues as my grandmother prayed for Aumakua to come. Aumakua stands for spiritual guardian which are usually manifested into animals, every person of Hawaiian descent knows which Aumakua relates to their blood line. And I'm sure many have a story to tell of when they have come to provide aid. Yes it's true. And it would become true to me now... As we were wiping the tears from our eyes, just a moment to breathe back the sobs, I heard a screech.
In front of her house was the unpaved road. There was just one street light over the telephone wires, running down the side of the road. I looked towards the direction of the screech and could see a small shadow flying towards the telephone wires. I tapped on my cousin's shoulder and begged her to look... It was a Hawaiian owl, a Pueo. It perched up on the wire and just looked at us.
All three of us were caught in a trance, and a feeling of calm swept over me. That's when another one came, and perched right beside the first one. Well that's odd, they spend their lives in solitude. Maybe they were a pair. Just as soon as the second one came, there comes another! Then another! Two sets of two, what a sight to see I thought.
In the midst of what was happening at that moment, we found happiness. She begins to giggle a little, as she gets up to tell her mom what was happening. Just as soon as she gets up to turn around she let's out a small sigh. We look up to see that her head had bumped into her father's chest. He holds his daughter in his arms as she begins to scream. "Baby, what is it? What are you all staring at?" We stared at him, our eyes as big as a Mempachi fish. As we turned around to look back at the telephone wire, the owls were gone.
My uncle says to us, don't worry, I saw them too. But how? Just a half an hour ago we thought he was doomed for death. He tells his family, "I saw them in my dream. Up there on the telephone wire yea?" I looked deep into the eyes of one and that's when I woke up... "What is it, why are you all staring at me?!"
Story #3: My Grandmother's Funeral
I apologize in advance for bringing out two great stories, just to hit you with the inevitable fact that my Grandmother's life came to an end. It was the biggest tragedy in my life, and for some reason I can't come to grips with it. Maybe it's because she's still with me. She was the caretaker and Kahuna figure of my family, and that didn't end in her death if that makes you feel any better. Or maybe it confuses you?
Well, it was the year 1999 in the month of March when my Tutu had passed. My grandfather had died just two months earlier. She died of a broken heart, no reason to live anymore. Her funeral service was held at our local church in Kealakekua. I spent the whole time next to her open coffin, just waiting for her to move, to say something. "Please wake up Tutu, I still need you", I say.
The church was packed to the ceiling. So many relatives, so many friends. She meant everything to everyone. The only one I noticed that wasn't there was my uncle. My Father's brother. It was just the two of them with a string of Hanai (Ha-nigh), or adopted, brothers and sisters who would carry out the coffin at the end of the ceremony. We were trapped in eternity during the service, but I begged it not to stop. The casket was finally closed and all the Hawaiian Aunt's and Uncles wept, as it was custom to cry loud enough for the Heavens to hear. The men in the family all took their places at the coffin and lifted my grandmother off the frame, all with one spot left vacant.
They walked down the small stairs, and through the short walkway to the Hearse. My father was at the back. My mother, sister, brother, and I were right behind at the front of the line. As soon as his foot left the sacred area of the chapel, I saw my Uncle's buckle, as they drop the coffin to the ground. They begin looking at each other, finding a time to laugh, saying "Come on brah! No get weak on me now!" They stoop back down to pick the coffin up.
I literally watched five of the strongest men my entire family, struggling to pick my grandmother up. Cries and whispers start floating around the chapel as they attempt over and over to raise her coffin off the ground. It would not move, they could not move her. My father explained that the coffin was heavier than blue rock.
My father and my uncle lean down at the front of the coffin and peak open the door that was to be forever closed. I could hear my father talking to his mother. "Ma, it's time to go! What are you waiting for?" As they continued pleading with my dead grandmother, I heard the rumbling of an engine racing up the driveway of the church. It was my uncle, late as usual. Even to his own mother's funeral. Real Hawaiian time as we would say.
He puts on his white gloves and kneels in front of the pastor, apologizing for his tardiness. For what he was late for, I don't know. But as he took his place at the coffin, across from my father, they lifted the coffin once again. This time my grandmother's coffin floated off the ground, light as a feather they said. As they walked another 15 or so steps to the Hearse, they said it was if my grandmother floated to the car. Even in her death, she was still as strong as ever, refusing to leave this world without her two boys by her side to lead her to the next world. I still need a moment to cry...
Story #4: My Grandmother and Grandfather hear my Father's Plea for Help
Yes, there is a story number 4. How, you may ask? As I said before, her guardianship does not end in her death. How comforting yeah?
This took place two years after my grandparents had passed. This one involves my father and mother, and every time he tells the story, the facts never change.
My parents had gone to Hilo for the weekend, on the other side of the island. We have family in Keaukaha that they would visit from time to time. Now geez there's another chapter right there! But anyway, my father and mother decided to spend the night at Hilo Seaside Hotel, right down the road. My father himself, being half Hawaiian and half Filipino, had always had a sixth sense. And sometimes it was a nightmare, as it started that way that night.
It was around 2:30 in the morning and they were sleeping in room #102, queen sized bed. The room was small and the door to the room was real close to the bed. If you open the door and walk to the right, it leads you down a flight of stairs, across a small garden area, through a swinging gate, and into the parking lot.
My father was being visited once again... By a choking ghost... This has happened to him on many occasions in his life, but as he tells me to this day, it was one of his last encounters. As the clock reads 2:36 AM he is woken up by a feeling of fear in the pit of his stomach. He could see a shadow forming at the foot of the door. The shadow leaks under the crack of the door, and up the door onto the ceiling. He began rubbing his eyes to adjust to the darkness, the tint of yellow light coming through the sliding glass door on the other side of the bed. My mother was sound asleep, he thought for a second of waking her.
As he looked closer and closer at the shadow, it began to take the shape of a womanly form. Only the shape was that of a gecko crawling on the wall, the arms and legs bent out and away from the center of the body. He was disgusted as this THING begins crawling on the ceiling, making its way above the bed. As soon as it is hovering over my father, it drops from the ceiling and lands on his chest.
This womanly creature had a face he said, a horrible face with a slithering tongue. It wraps its legs around my father's stomach and the hands grasp his arms, holding him down to the bed. He was frozen in fear as he attempted to wake my mother from her sleep. My mother is of Caucasian descent so she was usually not as affected by these things as my father was.
The womanly creature stares directly into his eyes. He says it was just grinning at him as he began to feel his throat tighten and his esophagus lock up. He was gasping for breath as he tried his best to get this thing off. The creature began shrieking as he was slipping in an out of consciousness.
He said he felt as if he was taking his last breath when all of a sudden the front door swings open. There was another shadow standing inside the frame of the door. As it walked into the room the yellow light hit the face... The face of my grandmother! He hears his mother shout "A'ole! (Ah-oh-lay), ma make (mah-kay). You can not have my son!" She begins cursing at the thing. Even though the thing was still on my father's chest he was bewildered at the fact that his dead mother was standing in front of him, as if her flesh were still real. There was a bright light coming from behind her. As my grandmother continued to curse and curse at the thing in Hawaiian, it finally let off and scampered off, dissipating into the sliding glass door.
My father could not take his eyes off his mother, but she does not say a word to him. Just stares at him for a few seconds, smiling. She turns around and walks out the room, and out the door of their hotel room. This is when my mother wakes up. Even if you were to put my parents into a separate room, they would recall the story the same.
My mother joins my father at the door, asking him what was going on. My dad was staring down the corridor where the stairs were. That's when my mother's eyes focused on my grandmother, who was still walking. She walked down the steps, and past the garden. She looked as alive as ever. No more limping, no more pain as she walked. She walks out the swinging gate into the parking lot. That's when they realized that she was walking to a car parked at the corner, facing out towards the front street of the hotel. The brake lights were glowing red, but he could make out the blue bumper of his fathers 62 Mazda. In the reflection of the rear-view mirror he could see his father's face. He was right there, sitting in the driver's seat of the car. They watched as my grandmother approached the car, saying to him. "Okay papa, we go now, our boy is okay." She gets into the passenger's seat. They remember watching the glowing of the brake lights as the car disappeared into the darkness.
So there you have, it. I thank anyone who took the time to read this. I hope this gave you an ounce of insight into the wonderful woman that my grandmother is, and for you kanaka maoli, an insight into the wonderful people that all of our tutuhine and tutukane are. And if you still have the fortune of having them here in this world right now, don't take another second for granted. Because with them, they take our past, our tradition, and our inherent right to be proud of who we are. Please take this chance to ask them as much as you can, and jot it down to share with the rest of the world, before it's gone.