KAHULUI - One of Maui's well-known Hawaiian community members, Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., ordained a grandson as a kahu, or minister, on Sunday, saying it was time to pass the spiritual torch after falling gravely ill two weeks ago.
"I feel really happy. I feel relieved," Maxwell said after the ceremony at the Hale Makua Kahului grounds, where he is recovering from an infection in his left arm. "The legacy is being carried on, that's the comforting feeling I have."
In a short ceremony, with song, chant and purification done with special saltwater and ti leaves, Dane Kiyoshi Uluwehiokalani Maxwell was ordained a kahu, which allows the 27-year-old Kahului resident to perform Hawaiian spiritual duties such as officially blessing homes and land, performing weddings and bringing people together and especially in times of crisis performing hooponopono, the formal process to correct or amend a situation.
Kahu Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. shares a meaningful moment with his grandson, Dane Kiyoshi Uluwehiokalani Maxwell, as he too becomes a kahu Sunday morning at Hale Makua.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
"A kahu is like a shepherd. It's the one they follow," Maxwell Sr. said during the ceremony.
Following his ordination, the young kahu told the 18 people at the ceremony that his ordination came "a little sooner than I hoped."
"I'll make it the best that I can," he added.
Maxwell Sr. said in an interview that his health in the past several years hasn't been so great. He had problems with his right knee and eventually had his right leg amputated. But then two weeks ago, he landed in the intensive care unit at Maui Memorial Medical Center, which Maxwell Sr. doesn't remember. He had an infection in his left arm.
While in the ICU, Maxwell Sr., 74, said he was visited by his late wife and others who had died.
He was also singing all the songs he knew, including those he knows in Japanese and Filipino.
"In the stupor, something or somebody told me I've got to pass on my ministry," he said.
His youngest daughter, Sheri Maxwell, who stayed by her father's side, said doctors didn't know whether her father was going to make it.
But eventually he got better and was released to Hale Makua, where he will remain for about two weeks more.
The outspoken Hawaiian leader was ordained 13 years ago by the Rev. David "Kawika" Ka'alakea to take over Hawaiian spiritual duties.
At that time, Maxwell Sr. was shocked and didn't think he was up to following the spiritual path of Ka'alakea, who was known for his wisdom, guidance and aloha in the Hawaiian community.
"One week after he ordained me, he died," Maxwell Sr. said of his mentor during the ceremony. "I don't plan to do that."
Maxwell Sr. looked fine Sunday, greeting friends, playing with a great-granddaughter, singing and chanting.
He also said he'll still be around when his health improves.
"Uncle Charlie will still be out there kicking and screaming," he said.
He added that when he cannot be present where he is needed, his grandson will take his place.
Maxwell Sr. said he raised and baby-sat for his grandson from the time he was 3 weeks old.
His grandson also accompanied him to places such as Kahoolawe and Honokohua on Maui's west side when Native Hawaiian burials were being dug up during the development of a proposed hotel.
He's been to every protest I've been to," Maxwell Sr. added.
The younger Maxwell knows the chants and has aided his grandfather in wrapping the iwi, or bones, during re-burials.
"He is very well-mannered and levelheaded, which I'm not," Maxwell Sr. said to some quiet laughter among the group.
"He's still in training, but we work closely together."
The younger Maxwell said in an interview that the new position "feels natural" but he still has a lot more to learn.
"The opportunity and responsibility is a lot," he said.
The younger Maxwell enjoys fishing and camping and has a lifetime of dancing hula. He also studied in a Hawaiian language immersion program.
While he has a strong connection with the aina, or land, Maxwell also has a love for computers and technology.
No one else can get him going but his grandfather, he said, and they can argue with each other.
"He's a bull. That's why I love him so much."
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.