Aloha means….

….Hello. And goodbye. And I love you. And love, compassion, peace, mercy. And probably some other things too, but these I know off the top of my head. And why am I pointing this out? Earlier this week Pastor Kaitlin called and asked if I would be a lector for the Easter Vigil service. I told her that no, I wouldn’t, and explained why.

Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of my son Steve’s death from cancer. His death was awful, but the yearly remembering of it often coincides with Holy Week, and the appointed lectionary readings are particularly….difficult. Abraham obeying God’s command to sacrifice his only son. Jesus crying “My God, why have you abandoned me?” A word about those who mourn may trigger an emotional response that I cannot control….and after a few episodes of panicked sobbing from the lecturn, I just stopped volunteering to read the bible lessons anymore.

About a year after he died, I found a poem written by Steve, stuffed inside a pile of sheet music. One of the songs was “I was there to hear your borning cry” by John Ylvisaker. In it, God tells us he was there in our beginning, is there throughout our lives, and will be there at our end.

Yesterday a patient was assigned to me. Their disease had advanced past any treatment, and they opted for comfort care. There is no family or close friend nearby, and Covid-19 severely limits visiting hours anyway, so this patient will likely die alone in the hospital. I walked into the room and the first thing I saw were all the patient’s belongings gathered in shopping bags and stacked on the dresser. The bag facing me had a large “Aloha” emblazoned across it…..

….and I was triggered.
Aloha means hello.
Aloha means goodbye.
Aloha means I love you.
Aloha means mercy.
Aloha means peace.

And perhaps, Aloha means that God, who was there to hear our borning cry, and who was surely there to see Steve’s life unfold, will also be present for my patient at their end.

Aloha Patient S.