In March of 2017 I spent several days taking photos at the Oahu Cemetery and the Manoa Chinese Cemetery. Some of them were of portraits on tombstones. To make these portraits, photos of the deceased were sent to companies that made them into decals (I would guess) which were transferred to porcelain and fired in a kiln. They used an adhesive to attach them and then some type of putty was put around the portrait to keep water out. A few of these portraits have fallen out and some have been chipped or cracked, but most look perfect after almost a century.
While editing these photos, I was listening to a song by Barcelona called Get Up and it seemed to flow with the photos in a way I hadn't anticipated. The song doesn't have anything to do with death or cemeteries, but I was moved in a strange way while going through some of these portraits and listening to their song. That's why I decided to make this video. I hope you'll expand it to fit the page because it will have a much greater impact.
The first photo is not of a porcelain portrait but a marble statue of Maria Kahanamoku, the young sister of Duke Kahanamoku, the Olympic swimmer and surfer. She was engaged to an Italian nobleman but died in 1932 at the age of 25. As the story goes, the broken-hearted nobleman commissioned this statue of Maria, the only life-like statue in Oahu Cemetery.
While looking at these portraits, I was struck by how many had been born in some other part of the world but had come to Hawaii in search of a new life. Many of these portraits are of their children. We can only guess at their sorrow. Some of these portraits are of Native Hawaiians, but many proudly state they were born in Scotland or England or Korea or Japan or China. In time, most of them adopted our language, our names, our style of dress and much of our culture. Many of them became Christians. They made their own contributions to our culture and our culture became richer for it. Although Hawaii was not yet a state when they died, they considered themselves Americans. They worked in our sugar cane fields, they played on our football fields, they fought and died in our wars and their descendants are with us still, all Americans. Wherever they were from, they found their final resting place here.
So that's what I wrote on YouTube. Some people might think this is a little morbid but that's not what I felt at all when I was at both cemeteries. Sure, there was a great deal of pain and sorrow and tragedy that you could see through these tombstones, especially those of children. But all of us know we're going to die; we know that one day we'll join those who've gone before us. Hopefully we can learn how to cope with transience, to embrace with joy the days we are given. I came away from both cemeteries with a more intense desire to enjoy my life right now with the family and friends I love. If not now, when? Maybe you'll feel that way too after viewing the video. Here's the link: