June 30 marked the 51st anniversary of Kalaupapa Independence Day, the day when the Hawai'i State Legislation removed the isolation ban on Kalaupapa. For the past seven years Dr. Kerri Inglish of University of Hawai'i - Hilo has spearheaded Lei Hali'a O Kalaupapa, in celebration of this day. Sadly, Kalaupapa is once again under lockdown, this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year churches and individuals were invited to make lei and pray in memory of someone who died in Kalaupapa, and to send photos for posting online.
Read one personal reflection of remembrance from Linda Kaauwai-Iwamoto and Daniel Miller, of Kapa'a First Hawaiian UCC:
Tossing of flowers in memory of Mary Morita and Gertrude Kaauwai, Tuesday, June 30, 2020, at Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor, Kaua'i. Daniel and I were so happy to be a part of honoring those who have gone before us. Mary Morita's mother was a staunch member of the church I've attended and still attend, the Kapa'a First Hawaiian Church, Kapa'a, Kaua'i. Mary didn't have Hansen's disease when she went to Kalaupapa but because of her love for her hoaloha, she went—defying her Mama's wishes. Aunty Rebecca Morita, oh, do I remember Aunty. Aunty Gertrude, I have so much love and respect for her and her love for my cousin, Sam Kaauwai. Twice I traveled to Kalaupapa, first with the Kawaiahah'o Church Choir in the early 1970's and again with the Kapa'a First Hawaiian Church in the late 1980's. Aunty Gertrude stood out to me throughout my travels, touching my heart when she picked up her ukulele, playing and singing along with both the Choir and the Church. When we were flying out to return to O'ahu, tears of sadness overwhelmed me, I was leaving her back, I wanted her to come home with me. I loved her with all my heart, never returning again to Kalaupapa until 2019, when she had already left Moku O Keawe! To Mary and Gertrude, Aloha, A Hui Hou, E Nā MāLama Pono. Napua Kaauwai, a me Daniel Miller.
May the memories of Kalaupapa patients continue to motivate our efforts to bring forth God's reign of love and justice on earth today.