Feeling it in Our Bones

The Mana

Mana is a Hawaiian word that is most often used to refer to a spiritual or divine power.  Sometimes it is used to define a miraculous or authoritative power.  “Mana makua” is parental authority.  You see, mana is one of those words that, like “aloha,” can mean several different things.  Mana has more of a spiritual essence to it than most of the English words we’re used to.


Aside from the fact that there are four or five different species of birds in this photo taken at Oahu Cemetery, the cemeteries do have a life all their own.  Could it be that “mana” that we sometimes feel when stepping onto the grounds of one of these burial places?  Each cemetery gives off its own “sense” when you visit.  Oahu Cemetery is, like its namesake, friendly.  There’s a sense of “thanks for coming to visit” when you go there — it’s peaceful and, yes, friendly.

If you follow the traditional way that Hawaiians always regarded the dead, the essence of a person resides in their bones.  I’ve touched on the spiritual significance of the iwi (bones) before.  With that in mind, there actually should be a “feeling” at all cemeteries, right?  What we don’t always know is just how many other hidden treasures a cemetery may be holding.

I do frequent the ones in the Nuuanu area, Mauna ‘Ala included, because I’m weird like that.  Unbeknownst to me, the maternal grandmother of a very dear friend from my high school years was buried right across the street from the burial ground pictured above.  I kind of found this out the hard way.

My darling girlfriend and her mother were there one day recently when I called them.  They were taking a lunch break in the midst of trying to deal with arrangements for their newly-deceased father and husband.  Sometimes when you lose track of the people you’re close to, you meet up with a few shocks in the process.

Grandma Gaughen

This was not something that I had planned to do but I was certainly at a loss for what the heck I should do!  So, I went to visit grandma, my newly-discovered neighbor, and took her some flowers.  What else could I do that would have meant anything to the ohana that I had been separated from for far too long?!?  Then I wanted to talk about all of this; I had to talk about all of this internal drama and I had nobody to share it with.  Wait!  “Hey, idiot, you have a blog!”   Oh yeah!


~ Herbert Walter DeCambra ~
October 21 1934 – August 24, 2009 

Late Saturday afternoon I listened while friends and family shared their feelings and stories of a much-loved man who left a definite mark on all who knew him.  This memorial service was a unique experience for me.  It was one that his family labeled “A Celebration of Life.”  Somewhere between the tears and the laughter I realized that this title was perfect.  I am very grateful that I was able to be there with so many people I grew up with, got into trouble with, pissed off Uncle Herbert with — you know the drill.

What touched me most was the joining together of long lost relationships —  friends, family members, and some that were a little of both.  Some of us may be on the opposite side of the island but that doesn’t stop the love or break up the treasured memories.  While holding on to some of the dearest friends from my youth, I realized that we cannot let this happen again!  We’re back in contact and we’ve got to keep it that way!

There was one more gift you gave us, Uncle Herbert.  You brought us back together!  Everyone will miss you but I will always be in your debt for making all of this happen for us!  You were “felt” there!  I’m going with “mana makua” — a parental authority that is now a spiritual, parental authority.  I will carry this revelation with me in my heart and all the way to the bone for many years to come.

Aloha and may God bless the DeCambra family in this time of loss and transition. He p?maika’i ‘ia mai ke Akua!  My heart and prayers are with you all!

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12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sheila // Sep 15, 2009 at 3:11 am

    Wow – sometimes in the strangest situations we’re reconnected to old friends. I’m glad you’ve reconnected, but sorry for the circumstances. Must have brought back many memories – I hope they were good ones!

  • 2 Evelyn // Sep 15, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Hey Sheila! You’re right, strange things pull us together when we least expect it. The circumstances were unfortunate but yes, the memories were good ones!

    It was difficult to watch the grandchildren tear up while talking about their grandfather but their stories and the resulting laughter that followed made it impossible not to focus on all of those heartfelt emotions.

    Thank you, Sheila, for sticking closely by as always! 🙂

  • 3 Becky // Sep 15, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Evelyn, good to have you back. I’ve missed you. Another beautiful story. I lost my Aunt this past week and this story makes you feel how lucky you are to have the memories of those you have lost.

    He sounded like a very kind and gentle man. Take care

  • 4 Evelyn // Sep 16, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Becky! I was just talking about you the other evening! When are you coming home to visit? I’m so sorry about your Aunt! Where was she — here or up there where you are?

    Memories are so important and we need to make more of them. I’m finding that the older I get, the more important they become!

  • 5 Becky // Sep 16, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    I’m not sure when I’ll be back. My brother and I are waiting to put my parents into a home. My mom had alzheimers(sp) and dad can’t walk. My aunt lived down the street from me. I would give anything to come back for a visit. I had planned on it in 2008, but that is when my dad fell and everything else went down hill. You and Rod are always welcome here. Take care and keep the blogs coming. I enjoy them more than you know. Much aloha to you both.

  • 6 Keahi Pelayo // Sep 17, 2009 at 9:10 am

    My grandmother is buried near Kamehameha School off School street. I never met her, but when I visit her grave, I feel her mana.

  • 7 Evelyn // Sep 17, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Aloha, Keahi! I’m so glad to see you! Do you mean the one on the Ewa side of the Union office? OMG! Really? What else do you know about that place? I feel that one just driving by! That’s a definite place I want to go if I can find out more about it! I know it has a name… it must have. Tsk! Please share, Keahi!

  • 8 Evelyn // Sep 17, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Becky, I know exactly what you’re dealing with! Blog slow down was a direct result of the same kind of thing! Mom is not quite herself these days. Every 2 or 3-day stay at the hospital, for whatever reason, is a step backwards. I hear you! It’s difficult when memory loss and mobility are both issues!

  • 9 Auntie Ho`oipo // Oct 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Aloha my dearest Evelyn,
    I stumbled onto this site after typing in Uncle’s name. I am filled with tears and joy reading you blog, looking at the pictures of Tutu’s grave, Uncle Herbert’s Celebration of Life and O`ahu Cemetery. I played at this cemetery as a little girl, running between the rows of monuments. My mother’s first husband, Samuel Liftee is buried there. I remember her talking to him while I played tag around the head stones.

    Thank you for giving Uncle his new title as “mana makua”. You know he was in that garage, where he could see who was coming and going, at home for a long time before he travelled over to the spiritual world. He remains the guardian of the family.

  • 10 Evelyn // Oct 18, 2009 at 4:20 am

    You know, Auntie, I’m sure you’re very right about Uncle going back to the garage to make sure that everyone is behaving and to be sure the neighborhood is functioning as it should! With all of that comfort and familiarity, I’ll wager he went there first — even if just for a while!

    It’s so funny that you should mention that visual of Uncle Herbert in the garage, it has been my most vivid memory since I heard he was ill. I’ve been able to capture and hold on to that so I’m glad you mentioned it because I thought I was just being very strange! Well, more so than usual. 😉

    Auntie, you’ve made me very happy by letting me know that you found the post and by leaving a comment to share your thoughts. Big hugs and many thanks for opening your heart and for sharing the love!

    Love you! 🙂

  • 11 Auntie Ho`oipo // Sep 11, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Evelyn my darling, it has been one year ago that Uncle Herbert passed. I am still renewing my relationship with Uncle Herbie and it helps to view your blog. He and I have a different level of relationship, a spiritual one. It just took me one year to arrive here. I have conversations with him, I met him in my dreams and get reports from his brother’s family that he has been sited in Oregon. He truly is becoming mana makua, a spiritual parental authority, and our aumakua.

    We are having to choose a date to scatter his ashes at Ma`ili Beach, across St. John’s Road and Farrington Highway. We may be looking at around his birthday, October 21, 2010. I treasure what you recorded, captured in time, your descriptive words and photos of a moment in the DeCambra and Gaughen histories. You are a phenomenal woman. Keep listening to your na`au.
    Love you,

  • 12 Evelyn // Sep 11, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Thank you, Auntie, for keeping me in the loop! I really would like to be there if at all possible. I’ll call you to find out the time, etc. Love you too! 🙂

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