Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wisdom from Out of the Colony, an Email from Cousin Angela to Me and My Principal, Cathy

Sheena and Cathy,

I just read a book about the history of leprosy in Hawaii. It's a crazy horrendous tale, but I was struck by a couple of quotes near the end and thought how they apply to the Fort too and some of the battles being fought here.

A man from the community of lepers said:

"The more we suffer, the more strength we have. The more suffering, the closer we are to one another. Life is that way. If you haven't suffered, then you don't know what joy is. The others may know something about joy, but those who have gone through hell and high water, I think they feel the joy deeper."

Some background on the next quote... Kalaupapa was a village on a remote island where the sick were exiled and pretty much left to die without much help or resources, but with years, the conditions improved and it became a real community, where people felt safe. In the end, the residents felt that it was more like home to them than the "outside world" where they were often ostracized. Thousands of their friends and other lepers were buried on the island where they lived.

"Kalaupapa used to be a devil's island, a gateway to hell, worse than a prison. Today it is a gateway to heaven. There is a spirituality to the place. All the sufferings of those whose blood has touched the land- the effect is so powerful even the rain cannot wash it away."

This quote hit me because, as I read about the history that has happened here, even walking past the monument each day by the school and court house, I could see the blood in the land here. I had a picture in my mind of the blood spilt in this place and just how significant it was to live here- but after a lifetime of being ostracized and living with the physical pains, emotional and spiritual pains of their illness, the survivors had come to a new relationship with the land and place and it had become a safe, serene place for them- one of powerful connections.

It was one of being honored to be touched so closely with the pain, and the honor of having lived alongside those who had suffered and died, and that those lives had opened up a greater awareness and connection to the things that really mattered- to relationships, eternity, beauty around us in the things that not everyone recognizes...

Don't know who all could benefit from these insights, but the book helped me see another side of things.

peace to you, angela

my cousin angela and her baby, emora
we sit side by side thursday evening
praying healing for dr lombard
we walk side by side
praying healing for our community
we kayak side by side
praying healing for standing buffalo
i cry by her side
praying healing for myself and our loved ones
and i feel the spirits of our grandmothers
signe and lavine
holding us in their hands
as sisters
we four