Pali Rides Again (Image of Edwin “Pali” Lelepali – Credit: NPS/ Julie Sigler Collection)
The familiar white and black truck pulled away from the church and slowly wound its way along the streets of the settlement. On the back of this venerable truck lay a simple yet beautiful casket with a guard of honor riding at each flank of the casket. The truck was followed by a convoy of cars, vans, and trucks. The cavalcade turned right onto Damien Road and moved along the dusty road toward Kalawao, the site of the original Hansen’s Disease settlement.
We had just celebrated the life and times of our beloved Edwin “Pali” Lelepali at his Kana Ana Hou Church and were now carrying his earthly remains to its final resting place by way of the road he had travelled so many times in the course of seventy plus years. Rev. Dr. Charles Buck led the service and preached a lively sermon. He highlighted Pali’s great faith in God, his dedication to church, and to this Kalaupapa community. He recalled Pali’s gentle sense of humor as well as his tendency to play little tricks on his many friends. There were several others who contributed to this most uplifting service, bringing the congregation from tears to laughter as Pali would have wanted.
The funeral cortege had returned from Kalawao and climbed the grassy slope of Papaloa cemetery. Pali’s truck had given him his last earthly ride. Now it reversed to the edge of the grave and the casket was lowered onto the wooden planks that had been set over the grave. We drew closer as Pali would have wanted. Prayers were offered, hymns were sung, and the casket was lowered into the earth. We sprinkled flowers onto his casket and watched in silence as the shovels began to cover the casket with sand.
As I sit and gaze at the mighty green clad pali stretching out before me from east to west, I think what an appropriate name for Edwin Lelepali, was Pali. Though short in stature, he was a mountain of a man, a gentle giant and a friend to all. We will miss him at volleyball and we will miss his parties. He has taken his last ride in his earthy vehicle and has flown to his heavenly home in an angel guarded chariot. Aloha.
Fr. Pat Killilea ss.cc.
St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa.