The Particular Power Of Love

It was truly a remarkable sight nonpareil.

Watermen and women, young and old, masters and novices — an endless stream of them — hopped onto their surfboards and paddled out just past shorebreak forming what soon became a tiny island bobbing in Hanalei Bay. There they sat on their boards to honor the life of world-class professional surfer and Kauaian Andy Irons after his untimely passing. A short ceremony was performed on a small boat in the midst of this floating entity.

I did not know Andy personally, but I can imagine that, during that service, emotions ran deep and high, for he was a cherished soul, a luminary who inspired so many and who was Kauai’s pride in the surfing world.

On the beach, purple petals showered from above by helicopter were strewn along the water’s edge, where children frolicked and where celebrities, media, community leaders, businesses, family, friends, visitors and locals simply stared out into the ocean with wonder and incredulity.

That day four years ago came back to mind the other day when I found myself in a microcosm of such an event.

The impetus behind what manifested in Hanalei Bay one day more than four years ago still exists. Jane Esaki photo

The impetus behind what manifested in Hanalei Bay one day more than four years ago still exists. Jane Esaki photo

On her birthday, a friend and I were in Hanalei to standup paddle on the river, when she steps out of her car with a bright purple orchid lei. Nice, someone already has given her a birthday lei.

But no, she had bought it on the way to the beach to pay tribute to a dear friend who passed away not very long ago in a tragic car accident. In fact, it was exactly three years ago to the day.

My friend’s plan was to present the lei upriver, where we were heading anyway, and hopefully it would drift down to the ocean where they both swam near the pier on many joyous occasions.

Thinking the lei might get snagged on the hau bushes along the riverbanks, I offer to paddle out to the pier with my friend for the lei presentation in the bay. As we sit bobbing in the ocean, there is no flurry, no other people around us except a few tourists on the pier snapping some scenic shots. And no official ceremony — instead, my friend simply tells her friend that she loves her, thanks her for her friendship and tells her that to this day, she is still with her.

My friend then places the lei on the water, the fresh garland forming no particular shape.

All the while, I am merely an escort and bystander, as I have never met my friend’s friend. But as my friend continues her tribute with a few moments of silence, the lei begins to form a perfect circle, as if now resting on the shoulders of her friend. I become teary-eyed, caught by a wave of emotion triggered by thoughts of love and affection.

It seems love is universal, not always needing a name, a face or reason to manifest itself. It simply exists when acknowledged and tribute is paid. That is the connection that can bond two people who never even knew each other.

It is a connection so great that it even has the power to form an island like the one created by those people honoring Kauai’s beloved surfing icon on that one remarkable day.