Bury My Heart At Hanalei Bay

From the photo essay Bury My Heart At Hanalei Bay

Erin Bunn

From the photo essay “Bury My Heart At Hanalei Bay”

The sands of Hanalei Bay are filled with memories. Thousands of footsteps dot its landscape–some wandering aimlessly, others rushing towards the vast ocean before them. Peals of laughter echo through time carried by the timeless salty breeze. I first visited its shores as a young girl and was instantly enchanted by the magic laced within its very air. Despite my infatuation, I was forced to return to my home. As Robert Frost wrote, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Though I have now grown old: my skin is wrinkled, my hair grays, and my lungs have failed me. But I have never forgotten the beautiful sands of Hanalei Bay. My existence here grows shorter and shorter still, and so I ask only this. When I am gone, bury my heart at Hanalei Bay.

This may sound like flash fiction: a bedtime story told to usher you towards dreamland. This is no fairytale, but a true story told by a woman I met years ago in a Virginia nursing home. Her name was Virginia, but she found her home in Hawaii after she visited there in 1943. Virginia’s father was stationed there during the war, and despite the chaos of wartime, she found her forever home.

After her return to the mainland, Virginia lived many decades with her partner and family. These photos were taken in the summer of 2019, when I visited the same destination she so adored. The final photo was taken by Virginia in the summer of 1943.

True to her request, Virginia’s ashes were scattered throughout the Bay by her partner and adopted son. Her laughter mingles with the salty breeze, and her smile shines with every sunrise. She is now part of the magic of Hanalei Bay.

She is home.