I could dry it, but it would be so fragile that I’d never get it home intact. I can’t just throw it out though, so I need to find a home for it while it is still lovely. I recall from old movies that tossing your lei into the sea guarantees that you will return to Hawaii, but the seas here are rough and would immediately smash my lei. That won’t do. I have been considering setting it afloat in some pool as a gift to Pele (or whomever the ruling gods here may be), but I haven’t been able to find the right spot. And, over the last day or so, a new thought has begun to percolate in my mind.
The final resting place of the restless aviator Charles Lindbergh is located just south of Hana. This may be the answer to my lei dilemma.
We had tried to find Palapala Ho’omau Church where Lindbergh’s grave is located before we visited the ‘Ohie’l Gulch, but the turn-off eluded us. Our time now is tight (we haven’t checked-out of our cottage yet), but – armed with more detailed directions begrudgingly provided by a park ranger – we decide to try once more.
Success! The ranger’s directions lead us directly to the secluded church. We never would have found it otherwise.
The 1857 church stands in a lush yard located high above the ocean. It is a beautiful place.
As I wander through the church yard and minuscule park, I think about this place, about travel, and about my ability to easily explore the world.
Lindbergh grew up in a small town just north of my own. In elementary school I was taken on a field trip to visit the home where the famous aviator was raised. I don’t think I knew who Lindbergh was before that field trip, but two things remained firmly planted in my mind afterward: He grew up in a pretty house and he found a way to leave that small town and see the world – and if he could, then I could too.
Of course, at least to some degree, I wouldn’t even be able to explore the world the way I have were it not for the efforts of Lindbergh and the other pioneers of aviation. They pushed the limits of flight and then mapped the world so the rest of us could follow. They literally opened the planet up to causal travelers like me. I owe them my thanks for their efforts.
I especially owe Lindbergh, since he not only helped open up the world, but also provided some of the inspiration to go wherever my curiosity may lead me.
Lindbergh’s plain grave site is adorned by a single faded shell lei. After all the hubbub of his life, it appears that the world has now forgotten Lindbergh and finally left him to rest in peace.
I add my lei to the string of shells and start to give Charles a little explanation of why I am offering him this gift, beginning with our shared roots and curiosity about the world. . . but my eyes unexpectedly fill with tears and I have to stop. The gentle breath of the ocean carries my unspoken thoughts away until they dissipate in the tropical air.
Thank you, Charles.
Rest in peace.