Over Thanksgiving week, the whole family traveled to the Big Island to spend the week in paradise, celebrate Saleen's life, and lay her to rest among the waves in her favorite bay.
I won't lie, I was not looking forward to this trip. Up until the day before I flew out I questioned not getting on that plane. Ultimately though, I couldn't do that to Saleen's memory. I owed it to her to be a part of her final goodbye.
So I went.
And I'm so glad I did!
I don't think I've had such a good time with my brothers since we kids, and, you guys, Hawaii is BEAUTIFUL!
My family all arrived a day or two ahead of me, so when I flew in Monday afternoon, most were already in vacation mode and ready to chill. I spent that first evening poolside with my mom and enjoyed this view:
Day 2Danielle, Brandie, and I explored Waipio Valley and the black sand beach. We had so much fun off-roading in our rented Jeep and exploring the beach and waves. It's amazing how much warmer the water is in Hawaii compared to the Oregon Coast.
Day 3We all headed out with the intention of exploring the Hilo side of the island, starting with Akaka Falls. After the falls though, the 2 cars split up and just Jed, Danielle, Joie and I continued on to Hilo for lunch and then Volcano National Park so Joie could see her volcano (which was at the top of her Hawaii list).
The fourth day was Thanksgiving. The day started off with time on the beach to myself. I FaceTimed with the family I normally spend the holiday with who were back in Seattle. It was fun to "see" them and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving while sitting next to the ocean with my toes in the sand. Later that day Danielle's aunt, who lives on the island, took us to a local spot for snorkeling. It was so fun! After hours of playing in the ocean, we had our Thanksgiving dinner at Lava Lava Beach Club and it was soooo good! It was weird to eat Thanksgiving dinner out (and I had a hamburger, ha!) but it was nice and laid back too. We ate out on the beach and listened to live music along with the waves. It's not what I want to do every Thanksgiving, but it was definitely a great experience.
We spent most of the day at Hapuna Beach, a state beach that is so unbelievably gorgeous. We snorkeled, swam, built sand castles, and just generally enjoyed a relaxing day in the sun and surf.
This was the day we said goodbye to Saleen. We started out early in the morning with a hike through lava that led us to the most gorgeous bay I've ever seen. Saleen had told me about this spot a few times and she described it really well, but nothing could have prepared me for how amazing it was. The sand was like silt and the surf was unbelievably warm. It was a sobering morning, but much more cathartic than I anticipated. There were tears, there were hugs, and there sweet memories shared and made. It was difficult to have everything feel so final, but at the same time, it's exactly what I needed to move on. All of us were saying we wished we had done it earlier in the week because it seemed to help find some closure.
That afternoon and evening was the most fun I'd had in a long time. We played in the pool, drank, toasted to Saleen in the sunset, and just in general had a good time celebrating life.
Our final day. We were flying out at midnight, so we had one last, full day in paradise and none of us were ready to leave. We spent the day with a mix of pool, picking up a few souvenirs, and cleaning the condo we'd rented. We also made sure to get in one last happy hour at Lava Lava. I understand why Saleen always sent me texts of her evenings there. That place is magical at sunset.
Danielle and I did not want to leave, but Jed (the level headed one) drug us away to get ready to head to the airport. It was such a lovely evening enjoying the atmosphere and conversation with one another. I began my trip not wanting to go to Hawaii, and I ended it looking forward to visiting again.