I spent the summer when I turned 21 working on a farm on the Pahoa side of the Big Island.

My living quarters were a small, framed hut with walls made of netting, and my diet consisted of breadfruit, bananas, eggs, avocados, coconut and lilikoi. I was responsible for collecting eggs, harvesting bananas and milking the goats, but most of the time, I spent hauling rock to fill up the crevices left over from the volcanic eruption of 1960.

To my surprise, my city dwelling brother, whose loyalty was to San Francisco and all the amenities it offered, and who had never showed any signs of being interested in my questionable lifestyle, decided to join me for a couple weeks on the farm.

When I picked him up from the airport, he was clearly hungover and wearing jeans and a flannel, which is completely inappropriate attire for Hawaii. Sleepy- eyed, he carried only a small backpack and explained how he almost missed his flight.

I remember feeling excited to see him, but I wasn’t convinced it was going to be an enjoyable experience for him. The insane number of mosquitos, the nightly routine of the loud coqui frogs and the off- grid living had already made several people cut their time short on the farm since I had been there.

I couldn’t suppress my evil little sister joy, when it was time to show him the outhouse and that instead of toilet paper, we used the plants growing by.
He shook his head and said “nah” and I about fell over with laughter when he insisted we hitch back into town to buy TP.

I know the environment was tough for him, but to his credit and, to my surprise, he fully embraced the experience.

I think the lifestyle even grew on him. He especially enjoyed carrying around a machete, which is a necessity in the jungle. We both thought we were pretty darn cool.
One weekend, we decided to take a couple days off and hitchhike around the island. With $40 between the two of us, we set off to explore the island.

We caught rides with random people, went snorkeling, jumped off cliffs into the ocean, did some body surfing, slept on the beach, and even found ourselves freezing in the snowy mountains of the Big Island.

We were just two kids enjoying our 20s, feeling invincible and carefree.
The night before I was set to leave, my brother and I decided that we were going to slaughter the mean rooster on the property together.

We had never done anything like that in our lives, but I think carrying around machetes had gone to our heads and was making us feel tougher than we actually were.
We had no clue what we were doing, so after our boss had enough entertainment watching us chase the rooster around, he told us to wait until the birds roosted in the tree for the night.

At dusk, we approached the tree and spotted our target rooster on a top branch, out of reach. My brother told me to get on his shoulders. Doing my best to balance, I gripped the rooster by the ankles and turned him upside down, to make him pass out. The rooster’s chaotic struggle ended up right in my brother’s face; he screamed like a little girl, and the three of us collapsed.

Over the years, my brother enjoyed telling the story of the rooster that got away and we would laugh until we cried.

Six years ago on March 8, my brother passed away; he didn’t even make it to 40-years old. People will tell you when you lose a loved one that it will get easier; I’ve decided that it’s a well-intentioned lie. In my experience, there is nothing linear about grieving; the heart- wrenching moments are easily relived years later, as vividly as the first day.

But when I’m thinking about my brother and the adventures we had together in Hawaii, I swear I can still hear his infectious laughter and all my sadness melts into love. I will always be grateful that I had him for a brother, if even for a short time.