Photo: Eric Miyasato
For some of us, our early childhood hold memories of an intact family – attending family functions together, camping, vacationing Lake Tahoe, making ono (delicious) dishes in the family kitchen, and going to the beach. For Lena Hanson, these are her childhood memories. “I loved being with my family”, says the successful Hawaiʻi make-up artist. Having a routine and just knowing that her family was there gave Lena comfort. However, her parents separated soon after she graduated high school. “I just moved to San Diego when my Dad called to give me the news and I remember being upset at him, blaming him for not being there for my Mom,” explains Lena. “My Mom felt alone and maybe I was afraid of feeling alone too.”
Though her parents didn’t stay together in Lena’s ideal way, her Dad continued to support and love her unconditionally. “He walked me down the aisle during my first wedding, baby-sat my son, Victor, when I needed him, provided me money, and always gave me sound advice. We could say anything to each other. I miss that,” recalls Lena as tears ran down her face. “If I could have one minute with him, I would thank him for always loving and supporting me. If he could respond, he would say how proud he is of me for raising a good kid and for being an independent woman.”
Lena’s Dad passed away four years ago from emphysema. It was a blur from the time he was diagnosed with the disease to his admittance into hospice. “My Dad would call asking to see me or bring some food so we could talk story,” says Lena. Tears started rolling down her cheeks again. Wiping away some tears, Lena softly continued, “I just didn’t think he would pass away. I knew he was sick but the thought of him dying was not real to me. I was selfish and took my Dad for granted by not stopping by daily.” Though she visited him at least four times a week, guilt continues to haunt her daily. She believes she could have done more while he was here. “But with this experience, my Dad taught me to maximize my time with the people I love. Seize the moment,” says the single mother. She tries to practice this daily. “My Dad always made me feel loved but I never told him this. So I always make sure I tell Victor and my Mom how much I love them on a daily basis.”
The recent passing of her loyal dog companion, Sushi, helped Lena relive the loss of her Dad. “Sushi was family. He was always there for me and my son, loving us unconditionally,” she says. “I lost two loved ones. I’m not going to lie, it hurts.” Lena’s tattoo sleeve and fearless expression conveys a tough exterior but she holds a softer side. Like many of us, she desires to be loved and cared for and to share her greatest moments with someone special. To lose someone who provided all of this can be devastating. So how do we fill this void? For Lena, she puts things in perspective and reminds herself that she is surrounded by people who love her. She admits that she has her days of curling up in a ball and shutting the world out but for the most part, she gets up every day to try again at living life. “I get out of bed each day to make sure my son is loved and taken care of. My son, Mom, and friends count on me and I don’t like letting people down,” Lena explains. Her Dad reminds her to make each day count and she does. She is a successful business owner, an avid fitness enthusiast, a true friend, a loving daughter, and an amazing mother. Lena’s strong will and perseverance are inspiring and her core values of reliability and excellence will lead her through yet another life challenge.
My interview with Lena ended on a beautiful night in Maui. We were enjoying the last concert of Jason Mraz’s “Yes!” tour – singing our hearts out, laughing, and of course taking selfies. But there was also a sense of gratitude. We were thankful for not only what we had at the moment, but thankful to know we had someone to share it with.
“There are three things I do when my life falls apart. Number one I cry my eyes out and dry up my heart. Not until I do this will my new life start. So that’s the first thing that I do when my life falls apart. Oh, the second thing I do is I close both of my eyes. And say my thank-yous to each and every moment of my life. I go where I know the love is and let it fill me up inside. Gathering new strength from sorrow, I’m glad to be alive. Things are looking up I know above the clouds the sun is shining. Things are looking up. Love is still the answer I’m relying On Three little things Things are looking up. The third thing that I do now when my world caves in, is I pause, I take a breath, and bow and I let that chapter end. I design my future bright not by where my life has been. And I try, try, try, try, try again. Yes I try, try, try, try, try again.”
Lyrics by Jason Mraz