Ohana – Means Family

Do you recall the first movie that you saw in the theater? When I was about four years-old, my grandmother was taking my aunts (who were nine and ten) to the movies. I don’t remember actually going to the movie, but I clearly recall getting ready for the movie. We went through my grandmother’s house collecting bedknobs and broomsticks. Can you guess the film? With a 63% on the “Tomatometer,” I present to you – Bedknobs and Broomsticks.I’m not one hundred percent certain why the collection was warranted except that going to the movies wasn’t common for us growing up and there was likely some sort of discount to be had for dismantling ones’ bedrooms and cleaning closets.

Disney was a rite of passage however many years ago when I was a wee lass and things hadn’t evolved much by the time that I had children of my own. We didn’t go through the house collecting pineapples or aliens in preparation, but the first movie that my girls saw in the theater is a Disney Classic – Lilo & Stitch.Well, maybe it isn’t considered a Disney Classic – yet. Nevertheless, it rates a little higher with Rotten Tomatoes (86%), and it is a classic around our house.

Even at seventeen years old, Brooke LOVED Lilo & Stitch– especially Stitch. She still proudly displayed a stuffed Stitch on her bedroom dresser. (I’m certain that he would have traveled to her dorm in Baton Rouge.) We still watched the film on a regular basis, usually when my husband was traveling for work and I was stealing those last precious moments before Brooke headed off to college.

What I never appreciated until recently –Lilo & Stitch is about so much more than a cute Hawaiian girl and an alien experiment gone awry. The simple animated characters are orphans or outcasts or both. They are wounded and looking for a place where they belong.

We are the outcasts and orphans. We are all looking for a way to heal our wounds and to find a place where we belong.Lilo 1


Lilo and Nani – like so many of us – have unimaginable loss thrust upon them. Suddenly death steals the two people who provided stability to their everyday lives. And as is often the case in our own lives, those who are taken are often the ones we need to show us how to navigate the loss. As the story unfolds, the legacy of love that Lilo’s parents left behind is encapsulated in one concept – “Ohana.”

“Ohana” means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten. – Lilo & Stitch.

“Family” in this context is that richer, broader meaning of “family” woven through a time when extended families lived next door to one another. And, if lack of blood relation caused any pause about how to describe those who blended into the extended family, you just called them “Cuz.” Everyone was “related” to everyone. Over the course of the movie, this concept of “Ohana” is what helps Lilo and Stitch to heal wounds and to find where they belong.

This life is going to be messy, lonely, and hurtful at times. There is no way around it. We all meander around wondering if we’ll ever be rescued from the local shelter. When will someone choose us for a new home and give us a new name? How do we protect ourselves from the mess in the meantime? We can’t do it as a single thread. A single strand is too vulnerable. The single strand must intertwine itself with others in order to form a cord that won’t be easily snapped. Being entangled with a strong Ohana equals a strong lifeline when life gets messy.

That lifeline is never more important than when life is at its messiest, which for Lilo and for a lot of people is dealing with death. A couple of weeks ago, our pastor was talking about the things you hear after a loved one dies that are meant to comfort, but really don’t.  Tell me if you’ve heard this one. “Death is a natural part of life.” (Maybe like me, you’ve even said it once or twice.) Pastor Steve’s response, “No, it isn’t. LIFE is a natural part of LIFE.” So where are you going to turn when the unnatural invades?

When we loss Brooke, our Ohana showed up in droves toting casseroles, wine, chocolate, paper goods, flowers, cards, hugs, tears, and the weight of their own losses. You see, loss doesn’t occur in isolation. We all bring little strands to the loom. When we have the courage to share the threads of our own losses, those become the threads that bind. Even when we keep the strands to ourselves, the silent threads of our own losses are what drives us make funeral sandwiches, to the grocery to pick up some extra tissue and TP, or to send a note to a stranger. These are the fine threads that give the fabric of life a soft hand.

At some point, we have to learn to live in spite of the mess. This is hard. I mean really hard. Frankly, when you try to describe in a word just how hard living becomes under the weight of loss, the vocabulary options – difficult, tough, awkward, impossible – sound more like caricatures than the reality of the situation. If you are caught in the wake of the unnatural – you understand. You know that happy endings don’t always come the way you imagined. You know that nothing feels right. The mere act of breathing can feel like a violation. Laughing is unspeakable. Yet, this is what we must do.

The Disney trivia experts (aka “the internets”) suggest that Lilo’s love of Elvis is a tribute to her parents, who are speculated to have been big fans. (What’s to speculate? He’s the King of Rock and Roll. Of course, they were fans.) Finding affirming ways to honor those we’ve lost is the ultimate goal of grieving. It’s not about “getting over” a loss. Rather, it is about knitting that loss into life.

How can we cast off the dark blanket of pall when the only light we see is through a tear in the hem? Turn to your teary-eyed, casserole-toting Ohana. Let them help to stitch up the rips and tears – perhaps with a bright pink thread that will stand out and without the careful attention of fine needlepointer. The stitches strengthen at the mend, and few rough knots lend texture to the grain of the weave.

One day, we – as one great big Ohana – will stand back to gaze upon the final tapestry. We won’t be able to pick out our knots. The bright stitches won’t stand out. All along each thread has been carefully stitched right where it belongs.




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