Hawaii, the 50th state, the culmination of my three month journey to all 50 states. Landing there felt a bit surreal knowing that I had completed the journey I had set out on. Hawaii is a pretty great state to end on- lush vegetation, clear blue waters, majestic waterfalls, pristine sand. It was beautiful and surreal all at once. Driving from the airport to our hotel, I felt giddy in being in a place so beautiful and being at the end of my trip.
Choosing when to go on this trip and which island to go to was a difficult decision. In fact, I think I had made plans for about ten different trips before I picked these dates and this island. I settled on the island of Kauai because I have never been there, and out of all of the Hawaiian island, it was my mom’s favourite. Seemed fitting then to end my 50 states of grief trip there.
I went with a friend of mine and we did a mix of exploring the island (each day we chose a different area to explore), enjoying the beaches, eating tasty food, trying to have shave ice at every single shave ice place and relaxing at our hotel. It is a small island and easy to navigate around. It is less commercialized than some of the others I have been to and I appreciated that most of the beaches simply had dirt patches where you park under a grove of trees to get there. And there are chickens EVERYWHERE. Before we even got to our hotel, we pulled over at a viewoint and were suddenly surrounded by chickens milling about. It added to the casual island feel and was fun to see them at every stop.
Normally it is a good idea to go to Hawaii when it is cold at home. I considered this idea but I mostly wanted to go and wrap up my trip. So we went in August. This meant some days were over 40 degrees. I am not a huge fan of heat and so it meant taking it a bit slower and easier in order not to get too overheated. For an island that is supposed to get the most rain out of all of them, I think it rained once for an hour during our time there. One of our favourite beaches we visited was in Polihale state park. It is on a side of the island that is not very inhabited, right next to an army base. It is described as an isolated beach with white sand and cliff views. And it was absolutely breathtaking. The sand was incredible soft. The waters were clear blue. The cliffs stretched out along the coast in their green lushness. There were barely any people there and the water provided refreshing from the lovely sun.
Of course, I’ve painted a lovely picture of this beach, and truly is was lovely and one of my favourites. But ironically, Brooke and I nicknamed it Killer Beach. First of all, due to its remote location, you have to drive along a rocky road with potholes for quite a few kilometres. Then you get to the portion where you are driving through very soft and fine sand, wondering if your vehicle will get stuck. But finally, after this treacherous drive, we made it to the beach. The anticipation was high because it was indeed beautiful. Within minutes of walking on the sand, we were dripping in sweat because it was so hot- the kind of heat that drains every ounce of energy you had left to move your legs. I took off my sandals as I do at beaches, but within seconds my feet were on fire. It felt like I would get blisters on the bottom of my feet because the sand was so hot. So I put my sandals back on as I walked toward the water. The sand is so soft though that when you walk on it, you sink in and the sand ends up on top of your flip flop, underneath your feet and still manages to burn your feet. And then you reach the reprieve of the water- so refreshing, but the waves are super strong and there are tidal warnings because it’s not a great place to swim. But it’s beautiful. But we’ve also named it Killer Beach.
When we decided to head back to the car, I stood by the water and could see the car in the distance and wondered how in the world I would get there. It felt miserable trudging back through the burning hot sand while dripping in sweat and feeling exhausted. And yet I was still surrounded by such beauty as I trudged back. Well, we did in fact make it back to the car with minimal damage. I look back to our time at Killer Beach with fondness because it was so beautiful. In my head I think “It wasn’t that bad, was it?” It was worth it. I see it as quite comical and I do recognize I’m complaining about a trek onto a beach in the middle of paradise, but it was a good reminder for me. We experience a depth of beauty in life as we trudge through the hard and painful stuff. If we are willing to walk through it, there is a richness and deep joy to be experienced that was not there before. This journey of grief has been really hard and it still continues to be at some points. And yet I have a deeper appreciation for the world around me, for people, for children, for the beauty & majesty of God reflected in creation, for being present to each moment. Grief and pain seem to carve a deeper capacity within to be filled with deep joy, love and gratitude. Just as grief is felt deeply, so the celebration of life can be held deeply.
On another day we took a catamaran to the Na Pali Cost which is only accessible by boat. The boat trip was wonderful. We passed a few different pods of dolphins that swam along our boat, the coastline is absolutely breathtaking and then we had the opportunity to go to a smaller Hawaiian private island and snorkel alongside it. There was a seal in the water with us as we snorkeled. It was a wonderful day. Except for the moment when I was throwing up off the back of the boat and for the trip back to the harbour when I felt like throwing up as the boat leaped over the waves and we became airbourne while clinging to the railing of the boat. Once again though, it was beautiful and I look back on the day with great memories. It reminds me of the times when I was really sick while traveling with my mom. Even now, I don’t really remember the sickness, but I know I made the most of it still and enjoyed the different aspects. In these moments, I realize it means a bit more grace for myself in slowing down and taking necessary precautions to feel better, but there was still much to be enjoyed.
All in all, Hawaii was lovely and wonderful. We went to Waimea Canyon as well which they call the Grand Canyon of the Pacific Ocean. We became acquainted with the chickens outside of our hotel room, we ate great food (mmm shave ice) and enjoyed downtime and rest in the midst of exploring. This entire 50 states trip has marked a huge transition in my life. It has been a profound experience of exploring and also creating space to feel and continue to process. I believe that God works within us in ways we are not even aware and I trust that the process of this trip has been transformative for me. I did not always see the transformation taking place and yet as I have completed it, I see where deeper healing has taken place and where there have been shifts in my perspective and understanding. Of course this does not mean life is magically wonderful and perfect but I feel more whole than I have in a long time. I celebrate this and the beginning of a new day and season, knowing that as I continue this next leg of the journey, God loves me and is faithful as he has been all along and will journey ahead of me and with me.
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” -Lamentations 3:21-26