‘Iokepa’s mother died yesterday. The only way we know to honor that momentous passage is a reprieve from doing – a seizing of “still.” The Return Voyage has slowed to a crawl. In our lives on Earth, it is absolutely required that we honor the pauses. That we stop in our tracks – permit, at times, what feels like a loss of momentum. Within our industrial world, there is an addiction to motion – and a consequent avoidance of still.
It feels unnatural and unrewarded in an activity-addicted life to stop, to do nothing, to stand motionless and breathe. But we hearken to another world, another time, another culture – and it holds instruction for each of us.
‘Iokepa’s mother, my mother-in-law – a slight woman with whom ‘Iokepa shares not a single physical characteristic – was the rock solid foundation of her son’s life. Not another person came close to that; not another one was needed. She attended every high school football game. Maybe she winced; perhaps she covered her eyes – but she attended. She supported his passions.
She was in the bleachers for every wrestling match. She never missed a motorcycle race. It wasn’t easy to watch her only son flirt at harm’s edge. But in her eyes, he could do no wrong.
My guess is that the best of our mothers convince each of their children that they are her favorite. I know that ‘Iokepa never doubted it.
At the end of his dangerous youth, his mother handed over still another gift. She presented him with a beautifully wrapped box. Inside: her carefully detached and ironed apron strings. This woman knew how to hold on, and she knew how to let go. That was her good sense.
She was challenged again twelve years ago, when her successful son left her side to undertake his part in the ancient Hawaiian prophecy that required him to relinquish everything he worked for all his life. Relinquishing cars and homes and things material was comparatively easy. Walking away from his aging mother in Washington State to return to Hawai’i and fulfill his destiny was hard indeed. She kept track of the days, months, and ultimately years since that day in 1997 when he left her side to take his place among his people – in their service, and at the service of their Creator. She died, not coincidentally, we know, on the anniversary of his departure.
She was proud, and she never let him forget it. He was the apple of this woman’s eye. She listened to him in a way that few parents are able to listen to their adult sons and daughters. He spoke honestly to her mind and he spoke gently to her heart – until the very end.
Now it will be ‘Iokepa’s turn to let go. And it won’t come to him in a neatly gift-wrapped box. He’ll have to dig deep into his soul to find the place she left for him. But he will find it, as his wise Native Hawaiian ancestors have found it – in the still, quiet breath.
The Return Voyage slows to allow just that.