THROUGH THE FIRE: Remembrance and Memory

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By MARI NAKANO

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(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on June 30, 2010)

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I saw my father yesterday. It was the first time I had seen him since he passed away about a decade ago. It’s not what you think. He didn’t come to me as a ghostly spirit or anything like that. Rather, I simply saw him in an old video, playing poker with my uncles. For me, it was an intense brief moment of shock. I was breathless, but tried not to show it too much. To see my father young, moving, thinking, smiling, talking. I held back tears because I didn’t want to selfishly unwind too many memories of him. After all, the video was being looped at my Uncle Kaz’s memorial service dinner and I didn’t want to ignore why I was there.

The loss of a loved one conjures up so many emotions all at once. One minute you’re welling up in tears as the honor guard plays Taps in the near distance, and the next you find yourself laughing as you recall happy memories and blooper moments. Yesterday, I saw my family come together to do what they do best – be together. Of course there were tears as we put my uncle to rest at Fort Rosecrans Cemetery, but there were many remarkable moments of joy and commemoration throughout the evening. The sky was a beautiful blue. Children and grandchildren bravely professed their love. Stories of my uncle’s affection, hard work and kingly presence were passed around the tables. The sun set over the San Diego waters and the reflection of the evening lights and stars was slivered between the boats at the docks. By the next morning, some of us were talking about how uncle must be up there playing poker with my dad and grandpa.

It is human nature, or at the very least, human tradition to reminisce about those we have lost. We get so used to the physicality of a person, but once they are gone, we turn to remembrance to keep those people alive in us. We exchange stories, we pray, we caress photos and run our fingers over engravings and stones. We whisper our see-you-agains and I-love-yous because we believe he can hear us. And he does. What we echo in our conversations and hearts are all things we do to wish our uncle well. Our reminiscing is our way of uplifting him in the best ways we know how. We cry because we are sad, but we also cry because we deeply hope that he is free, happy and in peace.

Passings, as I rather call them, always put a reality check on my unrealistic life. I have a horrible tendency to get caught up in a pile of work, which often leads me to forget why I’m living in the first place. Life happens only once. You can’t always choose how you want to make your mark, but people that know you and love you will impress you into their memories. You become eternal through them.

It’s hard to lose people, so hard. Sometimes I hate that it is part of life. Sometimes when I see other people pass, I don’t want anyone to love me because I don’t want to make anyone hurt or sad when the day comes for me to no longer be around. Sometimes, I just wish it would stop, because no matter what or when or who, I am never quite ready for it. I know it comes, but I am never ready the way I want to be ready when it arrives.

I miss my uncle. I miss my father. I wanted to see my father love me in the video just to make me feel like we are together again for a split second. I wanted to see if my uncle would laugh, just to make me feel like he was safe somewhere. So many emotions, too many desires and so much recollecting.  I was stirred up. I have been stirred up for the past few days. In a moment like this when I am thinking so much about loss and even about my own future passing, I have to remind myself to continue to live to the fullest.

To my Uncle Kazumi Mizuno, a most honorable man. I love you dearly and will miss you. We will always be together because that is what our family does best.
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Mari Nakano can be reached by e-mail. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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