I’ve been on the road traveling on and off for the better part of the last five months.  Most of it has been for work, some for fun, and one due to a beautiful soul leaving this world.  I’ve gone back and forth in my mind, debating how to share this, if at all.  But how does one share such an incredibly personal experience with a vast entanglement of emotions?  It’s a heavy one, but at the end  I hope you gain a new perspective, or a refreshed one as I did. 

Reflecting on the last few months is confusing, full of adventure, exciting, and sad but most of all I have learned so SO much.  In September my cousin Makena passed away on his 21st birthday doing something he loved – spear fishing while on a surf trip to Bali. A shallow water blackout.  I remember getting the phone call like it was yesterday.  Walking down a hectic street in the middle of the week in the Financial District of NYC my phone rang.  Immediately I knew something was wrong, the tone in her voice was off, her breath unsteady, as if she was fighting the act of speaking. The words came out but it just couldn’t be, “Makena is gone”.  All of sudden my world stopped. And there in the middle of the street the shock ripped through me, tears streaming down my face, my chest compressing in a way that felt like someone was grabbing my heart with an iron fist. 

We were close, I spent the better half of my college breaks visiting Kauai, my family spent Thanksgiving and Christmas on Island, Kauai felt like home. Makena showed me the beauty of Kauai, he showed me the island’s best kept secrets, he took me surfing, he laughed with me, he taught me that everything was going to be ok.  Makena was one of those people who teaches you what it means to be genuine, really truly genuine. You could spend five minutes or an entire day with him and you would part ways wanting to be a better person.  He cared deeply for the environment, for the ocean, for his family and friends. He was happy.  No matter how little or how much he had in life he was happy just living, always present.  He made me and continues to make me strive to be a better person.

Flying back to Kauai for the memorial I remember feeling like I was in a haze.  Kauai had always been my magical, goddess, positive, renewing paradise. Traveling back to visit my family for an entirely different purpose felt unimaginable.

As I walked off the plane, collected my bags and searched for my uncle it all suddenly became very real.  My uncle and I embraced in a hug, no words were exchanged as held each other there in silent sobs, acknowledging each other’s pain. As we drove back to the house my uncle handed me a joint and said, “here this will help.”  It made me smile. Aloha.  We were still in Kauai after all.

The next two weeks I witnessed the most beautiful and powerful display of community I had ever experienced.  I was surrounded by family and friends, many of whom I was meeting for the first time.  LOVE was abundant.  The days were spent hiking to Makena’s favorite spots, surfing, spreading his ashes down the Napali Coast.  The nights became a gathering at the house, everyone cooking, drinking wine, sharing tears, laughs, stories and hugs.  Some nights even became dance parties, celebrating the spirit of Makena.  He was a fucking unicorn of a human being.  Always glowing, full of optimism.  I swear I never heard that boy ever say one negative thing, complain or be selfish in any way.  Most of all he knew how to keep himself happy.  something many people struggle an entire lifetime to achieve.  I am so proud to have known Makena, to call him family and a friend.  His love for adventure and exploration was never ending -something to be inspired by.  He had an intense amount of respect for nature, especially the ocean.  I can contribute my deep love of the water, in part to him.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately.  Makena’s passing is still heavy on my heart but it reminded me what is important in life.  It made me reflect and realize I need more than ever to be present.  Life is short and you never know what tomorrow will bring.  Right now I really just want to LIVE.  There is a lot of unknowns in life but what I do know is I want to live. I want to be happy. I want to take every adventure that presents itself. I want to wake up every morning knowing that whatever obstacles come my way it will be ok.  To LOVE fully.  I’ve come to realize I’m searching for soul loving, deep meaningful connections with friends, family, lovers.  Through this experience something inside of me woke up.  I think it was always there but I’m not afraid of acknowledging it anymore.  I want to do away with small talk. I like people who speak with emotion.  Speak to me of magic, of faraway places, your dreams, what makes you fire up so much that every single nerve in your body is tingling, what makes you feel awake and alive, your fears and weaknesses, of other worlds, what wakes you up every morning and keeps you awake at night. Speak to me of your deepest secrets.  Share your twisted mind and don’t be scared.  Opening up your heart,  being courageous and telling people you care about them. That you like them and think they are special. These things only makes you a better, bigger, kinder, more interesting and more loving person.  It can only attract more adventure and love into your life.

My trip to Nicaragua happened right after Kauai and it was a relief to be somewhere Makena would love, to be in nature and the stillness.  To be in the water everyday and feel his energy in the ocean.  It was at time of loving, healing, adventure, and reflection.  To live like Makena.

Thank-you Makena for being the deeply magical soul you were.  I feel your energy everywhere.


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