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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 23, 2002

Hundreds say goodbye to Kahealani

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kahealani Indreginal's academic awards and photographs decorated Borthwick Mortuary last night, reminders of a brief but bright life.

Anita Manubag of 'Aiea, a relative of the Indreginal family, lays her hand on the urn containing the ashes of Kahealani Indreginal. Hundreds of people paid their respects to the Indreginal and Tumbaga families yesterday.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Slides of the 11-year-old girl, posing with relatives and school chums or smiling on the beach, flashed on a screen above the heads of family members who knelt to give hugs and kisses to the tiniest of those who paid their respects yesterday.

As Kahealani's mother stood, the slide on the screen above her showed a girl whose posture and movements mimicked the angular grace of her mother.

Kahealani's life was cut short on December 10. The girl's body was discovered Dec. 13 by a hiker who noticed something amiss on 'Aiea Loop Trail.

Authorities have charged Christopher Aki, a longtime family friend and the father of Kahealani's nephew, with second-degree murder in her death. Aki is scheduled to be arraigned in today in Circuit Court, and Hawai'i's law enforcement officials struggle to make sense of a seemingly senseless crime.

But last night was a time to embrace the happy, excited life the girl had crammed into her few years, said Chauncey Pang, a pastor at Word of Life Christian Center.

Friends, relatives and strangers filled the chapel's 500 seats, stood against every inch of wall not covered with flower arrangements and lined the stairs and sidewalk outside.

Hula and oli were offered.

"Kahealani was in such a hurry to enter this world," the girl's auntie Wendy Cacatian said, "that she did not give her mom time to make it to the hospital."

Kahealani Indreginal's hanai grandmother, Jane Gavin, center, releases monarch butterflies at the Makalapa girl's funeral. Hundreds of people — family, friends and strangers — gathered at Borthwick Mortuary in Chinatown yesterday to honor Kahealani's life.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Lehua Tumbaga's water broke and she gave birth in the doorway of the family home. Kahealani's father, Vincent Indreginal, helped deliver the screaming baby into the world.

"This is how her name came to be Kahealani Nawai Leleiwi Ame Kealoha 'O' Na Lima," Cacatian said.

The name means "from the rushing waters into the hands of love."

"We all called her Kahea," she said.

The baby seemed to quietly observe everything and learned fast.

Kahea grew into a devoted student who devoured books on mythology and Hawaiian culture and learned computer skills from her father. She loved school, and when the sniffles and coughs of childhood threatened to keep her away, Kahea would "fake being well," Cacatian said.

Kahea was her mother's constant companion and helper, Cacatian said.

Cacatian's mother, Jane Gavin, opened a box before the service began and released 100 monarch butterflies, a tribute to Kahea.

Butterflies, Gavin said, had led a hiker to the girl's body off the 'Aiea Loop Trail, and were creatures thought to be messengers of God. She said she hoped they would escort Kahea to heaven.

Cacatian said a few of the insects hesitated before undertaking the trip.

"One landed on Lehua," she said.

It lingered a moment with Kahealani's mother, then took flight.