Memorial Day 2012 In Photos

I hope everyone enjoyed Memorial Day Weekend! I certainly did!

The festivities started with my first attempt at stringing together Plumeria Leis. Every year, the veterans buried at Punchbowl {National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific} are honored with fresh leis laid on their gravestones. The cemetery places a small American flag at each marker, and on Sunday afternoon, local Boy Scouts take more than 40,000 {FORTY THOUSAND!} leis and place them at each and every grave, while rendering a salute.

Usually, Memorial Day coincides with high school graduations, and the seniors donate their fresh flower leis to the cemetery, providing a significant portion of the leis needed. That didn't work out this year, so they put out a call to the community to make and donate leis. Since I have plumeria trees in the yard, I decided to give it a shot.

I thought my first attempt was too short, so I gave it to Goose instead. :)

I made three more, and we delivered them to the cemetery. {Turns out, my first lei was just the right size, and my next ones were too long! But they worked, and that's what matters.}

On Monday, we went back to the cemetery, to honor the fallen. {Because Memorial Day is about people who have died in service to their country, folks. It's not the same as Veteran's Day!} It's a strikingly beautiful place any day, but on Memorial Day, with the flags, the leis, all the extra tropical flowers, and families gathering around their loved ones' final resting place, it's breathtaking.

There are many unknown service members buried here. Some from the attack on Pearl Harbor, and hundreds from the Korean War. Seeing markers like these really brings home the point of Memorial Day. These service members deserved a full and happy life, but war took that away from them, so instead, we offer them a day of honor, respect, and gratitude for their sacrifice.

Visiting the cemetery reminds me to be grateful for all the sacrifices that have been made by those who lost their lives in service to our country, and it also reminds me to be extremely grateful that the sorrow of such sacrifice has not visited my family during my lifetime. I am so very thankful to have my husband home safe and sound on this holiday.

After leaving Punchbowl, it was time to cross something off my Hawaii Bucket List - the Floating Lanterns. Every year on Memorial Day, the Shinnyo-en Buddhists sponsor a Floating Lantern event that draws tens of thousands of people to the beach. More than 3,000 floating lanterns are released (and then later gathered) into the Pacific, with messages of hope and love to honor those who have died in wars, loved ones who have passed, and for peace throughout the world. {Check out their website to see pictures that do it way better justice than mine do.}

You have to arrive early to obtain a lantern, and they have tents set up with supplies so you can write your messages and decorate them, before assembling them on the float.

Later in the evening, the ceremony starts. There is Hawaiian chanting and singing, Hula, Shinnyo-en drummers, guitar and ukulele, and recordings of interviews of those who have had exceptional experiences at past events. It's all live on the beach, and there are 3 huge screens so everyone can see. It's also broadcast locally, and around the world. A moment of silence was shared to honor those who have left us. Her Holiness Keishu Shinso Ito spoke to the crowd, and together with political and religous leaders from the Island, lit the torch for peace. A few large ceremonial canoe style lanterns were officially floated, and then after the ringing of the bells, the crowd was allowed to float their individual lanterns, wading in the water and setting them gently down to slowly float out toward the horizon.

I wrote messages of remembrance for my grandparents, my friend Zac who left us far too soon and is greatly missed, and all my beloved pups that have crossed the rainbow bridge. {All dogs do go to heaven after all!}

It was truly a magical moment, being connected with thousands of strangers by a simultaneous sense of loss and love. As dusk faded and night took over, the glowing of the lanterns grew brighter, as they peacefully moved away from the crowds on the beach.

I'm so glad I was able to participate in this event, and I'm thankful to the Shinnyo-en Buddhists who graciously go to great lengths to organize and fund it, welcoming people of all faiths and backgrounds. This is another moment that truly lives up to the local saying, 'Lucky we live Hawaii.'

These events happen all over the world. If you ever have the chance to go, I highly recommend it.

Mahalo for looking at the pictures, and Aloha!


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