Actually, ‘ohana means more than family. Think of it less as a noun than as an imperative. The Maōri cognate of ‘ohana is kōhanga, meaning “nest,” and from that origin flows a set of obligations that are baked deeply into Hawaiian culture. Families are tied together, and that binding includes caring for one another, cooperating with one another and, as Lilo so presciently observed, remembering one another. Nobody gets left behind; nobody gets forgotten.
Who knows this better than an Ironman competitor? Often, the sacrifices made by the athlete pale beside those made by the rest of the family. But as one Australian wife explained to me on the pier this morning, “If he qualifies, the rest of us get to come to Hawai’i!”
Below, some of the happy few that made it…and their ‘ohana.
All photos © 2015 by Lee Gruenfeld