Auntie’s Love Through a Ukulele?


When John began taking ukulele lessons soon after the passing of his Hawaiian aunt, he had no idea how his simple attempt to reconnect with his roots would help his family heal. He tells his story below. All names but John’s are changed to protect the privacy of his family.

Ukulele Lesson Brings a Message of Love

By John Sambueno

At the beginning of December 2020, I received an email from my father letting me know my Auntie Kelly had lung cancer and did not have long to live. I had a real, loving connection with her. I had been close to her family growing up and actually lived with her for a year during college in California. Now three thousand miles away in Ontario, Canada, I was very sad not to be with her.

With a heavy heart I called one of my cousins who let me know that, at that moment, the whole family was with Auntie Kelly at the hospice. She took the phone and said to me, “You know Johnny, God always has a plan and I am at peace with His plan for me. I am happy that I have all my family here.” 

I was amazed by how much grace she showed. Auntie was a devout Christian, but at the same time was open to God’s love being much bigger than religion. Many years ago, when she found out that I had begun following a religion called Eckankar, she asked me one question:, “Do you still believe in God?” I said, “Yes.” She replied, “OK.” Nothing else needed to be said.

A few weeks after the phone call, I received an email from my cousin Liz letting me know Auntie Kelly had passed away. I was sad about that, but happy I got a chance to say goodbye.

My Auntie was born and raised in Hawaii but spent her later life in California. I grew up in California, too, but had visited Hawaii a few times when I was much younger to spend time with my grandfather, Auntie Kelly and my cousins before they emigrated.

I was sad, but happy I got a chance to say goodbye.

I have always strongly identified with the Hawaiian part of my heritage. Several months after Auntie’s physical death, I decided to start taking ukulele lessons, feeling it would help me get in touch with my Hawaiian roots. One night I had a vivid dream: I was taking ukulele lessons, and my teacher turned out to be Auntie Kelly. I could feel unconditional love flowing from her, and I was filled with all this love even after the lesson was over. Still in the dream, I hung out with my cousins for a while like I used to when we were younger. It was a wonderful experience.

I have learned over the years that, when I have a vivid dream like this one, Divine Spirit is speaking to me at a deeper level. However, sometimes it takes a little work to decipher the true meaning. Something that helps me figure this out is a spiritual exercise I do every morning for 20-30 minutes. I sing the word HU (pronounced like “hue”) in long, drawn-out breaths. It is a simple, yet beautiful sound that helps me tune into Divine Spirit.

I usually include a visualization technique and, in this instance, Divine Spirit showed me a large bowl, which I realized represented me. There was tea (representing Divine Spirit) being poured into this bowl by my spiritual guide, or inner master. As the tea reached the top of the bowl, it would pour through tubes into small teacups.

Almost instantly, my dream with Auntie Kelly came to mind and I realized exactly what my dream meant. My Auntie had poured a whole bunch of unconditional love into me, but it wasn’t all meant for me. I was now meant to pour this love into other teacups and give it to my cousins. Once I realized this, I could hear my Auntie’s sweet Hawaiian voice say, “Johnny, will you give my love to my children. Please let them know I love them and will always be there for them if they just look within.” As I continued with the spiritual exercise the love filled up in me even more.

Almost instantly after my spiritual exercise ended, though, the mental part of me began to question what I had experienced. So, instead of writing an email to my cousins, I started up my treadmill and walked, wondering if I really should send this message of love. Would my cousins think of me as some weird but well-meaning spiritual person hoping to see something that wasn’t really there?

I could hear my Auntie’s sweet Hawaiian voice say, “Johnny, will you give my love to my children…”

But, as I walked, I continued to be filled with this amazing sense of love—and I heard my auntie’s voice again, “Please send my love to my children.” With a smile, I answered inwardly, “OK Auntie.”

Still, after composing the message to my cousins, I hesitated to send it. This time, I looked to a picture of Harold Klemp, the guide who serves as both my inner and outer master. “Should I actually send this email?” I asked. Instantly, he replied inwardly, “Will you be a fool for me?”

That was all I needed. I knew this was a play on some of Harold Klemp’s writings, in which he talks about being “a fool for God.” Of course I would be a fool for Divine Love. I sent the message and got back on the treadmill. There, I heard my Auntie’s voice one last time saying, “Thank you, Johnny.”

Each of my cousins replied to my message in a very loving way and expressed their gratitude that I shared it. They said how much pain they still felt at the loss of their mother. After reading the short note from my cousin Dan I cried for several minutes, because I could feel so deeply his pain and sorrow. I have a strong bond with Dan, who is outwardly tough and doesn’t show his emotions. I realized I was crying for him. (Although I still consider myself a tough guy, too, I am thankful Divine Spirit has softened me over the years.)

Looking back on the entire experience, I feel humbled and grateful that Divine Spirit and my Auntie gave me the opportunity to be a messenger of love to my cousins, who were still in such despair. What a gift it was to serve in that way, and to catch a glimpse into the wonder of eternity, where love and life continue.

I have come to understand the separation between “here” and “there” isn’t as great as I used to believe. In fact, it may all just be a matter of inner perception.

You can learn more about HU and Eckankar here

The Meaning of Forever Project continues to accept stories of comforting experiences with loved ones who have passed on, and of near-death experiences that have helped to show the continuation of life beyond the physical body. You can email your story to us at and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

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