It started with a wish. A wish passed on to me from a loving mother desperately trying to see what she could do to help her daughter.
A wish expressed by a young woman only 20 year’s of age but already in her fourth battle against Ewing’s Sarcoma. Codi is by no means throwing in the towel in her fight. In fact, her motto is “Bring It!” It is important for her though to still get her ducks in a row, so she has written out her Bucket List. Her mom Lisa was sharing the list with me a few weeks ago and naming off a few of the items that Codi has crossed off and a few others that she hadn’t. On the top of her list was, “Die without regrets”. Further down was, “Take a breath-taking picture”, “To help a stranger” and “To go to a Luau”. I realized that I might be able to help her cross off a few things. I knew I could help her with her photography wish and I felt that if I shared her story with others that could indeed “help a stranger”.
Then I started thinking about the Luau: the Pacific Northwest, November, typhoon-like rain and wind, a Luau? Why not? The only two resources I needed were my amazing Martha Stewart-esque wife Heidi, and my Camp Goodtimes family. I made a few calls, and they made a few calls, and suddenly things started falling together. We connected up with volunteer musicians and dancers, collected dozens of Tiki Torches, went on a huge Costco run, decorated my studio from top to bottom and adorned the front entrance with giant banana leaves. The mother of one of our camp counselors sent from her home on Oahu beautiful flowers, monstera leaves, head scarves for Codi, assorted traditional Hawaiian food items and even FedExed a special fresh lei for Codi that arrived the day before the Luau. A camp counselor’s sister, who has never even met Codi, made her beautiful earrings with “wellness” inscribed on them. People brought unique Hawaiian dishes to add to the feast and were decked out in their best Luau attire, although a few of them were wearing Uggs instead of flips flops. A few of our camp friends even spent the night before and after the Luau to set up and break down (and finish off the Mai Tai’s…thanks Putt Putt and Watermelon). And last but not least we had 50 people here on Saturday night that were treated to a night filled with love, music, dancing, great food, and the warmest feeling of Aloha.
“Aloha” by it’s definition means “affection, love, peace, compassion and mercy”. That did indeed define our entire celebration. There were prayers spoken in Hawaiian, songs of love and healing, the holding of hands, the giving of gifts, and the performance of traditional hula dances. All the while, Codi sat in her wheelchair wearing her leis and participating entirely in the wonderful gathering. Behind her on the floor was her bag of pain medications that unfortunately she had to dip into towards the end of the evening. Her smile was unwavering though and she didn’t want to leave. The musicians and dancers performed for about twice as long as we were expecting simply because they wanted to keep sharing their traditions with us.
In between dances at one point I said a few words of thanks to everyone and invited Lisa up to the microphone where she tearfully did the same. I inquired in a whisper to Codi if she wanted to say anything and she shook her head no. But after dances, songs and more dances (and after a Skype connection was made to her former camp counselors in Ohio and New York), Codi said, “I do have something to say.” I handed her the microphone and she said with a smile, “Because I now understand what it really means…Aloha.” To which the guests immediately responded back to her with the same wonderful sentiment.
When it was time for Codi to leave, she and her family didn’t have far to go. The Manor Farm Inn B&B across the street from my studio had donated a couple of rooms for them. So with a 30 second drive to a comfortable bed awaiting Codi, her Camp Goodtimes family formed a gauntlet of silliness lining the driveway to her car. While she was getting buckled in I asked her if she wanted to witness one last piece of Hawaii…body surfing. She grinned her approval and within seconds a few counselors were riding a human wave around her car!
The Luau kept going for a while longer and, luckily, one of the musicians locked his keys in his car so he and his family couldn’t leave! While waiting for AAA they all came back in and continued to dance and celebrate with us.
The next day Codi and her family all came over so we could actually do the photo shoot that was, in Codi’s mind, the only reason she was going to Poulsbo in the first place. I took portraits of everyone and then shot the official “Christmas card photo”.
The highlight of the entire weekend for me personally? Helping Codi to her car yesterday and then watching as she crossed “Go to a Luau” off of her Bucket List.
Thank you everyone who helped make this happen especially the musicians and dancers of nanaike.org, and thank you Codi for celebrating your wish with us. Our wish for you is for you to be feeling better each and every day.
I met Codi at the car to present her with her special lei sent all the way from Hawaii from our dear new friend Jane.
Bunny ears from "Daffy" in New York City while Skyping.
And finally, a different sort of goodbye wave, bodysurfing on a human wave!