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  • janetmchenry

Embracing Aloha

Our Honolulu girl visited for several days over the weekend. Our kids conspired to put together an early birthday celebration for a Big Zero I will face at the end of the month.

It’s hard knowing your child is an ocean away. The hellos and goodbyes happen in a blink just once or twice a year. In actuality she’s about seven hours away–the same number of hours away our older son is . . . except that he and his family are just at the other end of the state.

The melancholy in me doesn’t like hellos, because they start the clock ticking to the goodbyes. And goodbyes are hard. However, the pragmatic choleric in me tries to make the most of the hours together–meals, things to do, stories to tell and to listen to.

Instead I’ve decided to adopt aloha. The Hawaiian word for both welcome and farewell, aloha’s connotation also implies love, compassion, sympathy, kindness, mercy.

Mary Kawena Pukui wrote that the first expression of aloha was between a parent and child. “Hello, there, beautiful one. I’ve been waiting and praying for you . . . and here you are. I love you more than I can express.”

There’s no English equivalent for aloha, but I picture it like the greatest God gift ever: life itself. Like a parent standing on the porch waiting for your arrival and then standing there forever when you leave–waving, praying, trying to see you drive away around the corner, cherishing last glimpses. Then holding that child in my heart–hoping, wishing, praying she or he follows God’s leading.

Last glimpses. We visited my mom while my daughter was here–driving through snow and hail over Donner Pass to Mom’s senior living apartment. We smiled at each other through her screen window for an hour-and-a-half’s visit over speaker phone, because it was too cold to open the window and too hard for her to hear anyway. Mom shared all the details of her life, past and present, down to what she had for dinner the day before. And then we kept waving as we drove away, knowing she’d let tears fall as we headed out of the parking lot.

And that same day we learned my daughter’s other grandmother was put on hospice. A woman who would not recognize our faces or voices. A woman who celebrated her Valentine’s Day card over and over every time she glimpsed at it, because it was brand-new each time.

Aloha. Welcome and farewell. Life is a series of alohas. May I live them with love, compassion, sympathy, kindness, and mercy . . . and the expectation of God’s aloha to me as I do the best to follow him.

Janet McHenry is a speaker and the author of 24 books–six on prayer, including the bestselling PrayerWalk and her newest, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. She and her husband Craig have four adult children and love nothing more than time spent with them in their home in the Sierra Valley. You can learn more about Janet at

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