Not long ago, my wife and I visited two of my best friends, Ronnie and Noell. In December of 2012, they had just welcomed their first child into their family: Jayden—a boy who was unmistakably designed to be in baby commercials. As I cradled the child in my arms, a question suddenly sprang to mind.
“Hey, Noell, what does Kamauoha mean?” I asked.
“It’s Hawaiian for life,” Noell replied in her sing-song voice.
“What like, eternal life or something like that?”
She nodded. “Eternal life or everlasting breath.”
I stood there thinking about that word again and again. Kamauoha. Kamauoha means ‘everlasting breath.’ Kamauoha. Why couldn’t I stop thinking about that one little word? Why did I feel like there was something spiritually significant there?
In thinking about her words, I was reminded of something her husband, Ronnie, had said.
Before I get into that, I should probably give you a little context. Ronnie and I were roommates in college a few years ago. After numerous conversations about life and faith (and more than a few midnight runs to Jack-in-the-Box) it became clear to me that Ronnie was less of a roommate and more of a long-lost brother.
One day, after talking about recovering from my suicide attempt, Ronnie opened up and shared some of his own experiences. While his story is not mine to tell, there is one thing I will share you. He described coming to a point in his life where he felt like he was “drowning” and made the decision to change his life. After experiencing a “mighty change of heart,” he told me that his recovery was like “being able to breathe again. It’s as if [he] had come back to life.”
As soon as he said those words, they echoed through my soul. They reminded me of my own story (my depression and suicide attempt felt like drowning), and of countless other stories (both fiction and non-fiction) where people have felt smothered, lost, or drowning in a sea of depression, doubt, or fear. It reminded me of how my recovery was like coming back to life—like being able to breathe again.
But more than that, his words made me think about all the life Ronnie and Noell have given to others. His words about the breath of life rippled through my memory, reminding me of the nights we had stayed up talking, watching Gladiator or Mystery Science Theater, or laughing about something stupid. They reminded me of Noell’s calming personality, her natural gift of creating peace, and for her genuine care of others (ironically, she’s a Registered Nurse).
His words reminded me about how the two of them worked so wonderfully at ANASAZI, a wilderness therapy program for at-risk youth. All of the participants both loved and admired Ronnie and Noell; they were, without a doubt, heroes to those kids.
Ronnie’s words about the breath of life reminded me about his wedding to Noell in Hawaii: a beautiful celebration of life.
Indeed, not only have Ronnie and Noell lived amazing lives, but they have given life to so many people—including me. I will forever be grateful that Ronnie continued breathing, and that he married an angel who freely gives life to others.
In many religions, it is said that the Creator has endowed us with a spirit, or “the breath of life.” The word spirit comes from the Latin word spiritus meaning “soul, courage, vigor, breath.” It takes courage and vigor to keep moving forward in life—to keep breathing.
So please, don’t quit. Keep moving forward. The breath you take, the life you live, means more to others than you know. If you are struggling, if you feel like you are drowning, reach out and ask for help. Life is too beautiful to miss.
And so, while standing there holding Ronnie and Noell’s newborn son, I understood the meaning of his middle name, Kamauoha; it means eternal life or everlasting breath. The breath of life.
If this boy is anything like his parents, he won’t just walk forward. He’ll run forward.