Editorial: A Day for Remembrance
Lying in bed the other morning listening to the rain falling on the roof, I realized that the first anniversary of my father’s death was just a few days away. It came as something of a surprise, seeming at once distant and removed, as in a half-remembered dream, yet at the same time not so long ago. It brought home to me the elusive nature of memory and our sometime tenuous connection to the past.
As I lay there listening to the first stirrings of the day, Amy and the girls getting ready for work and school, the sky still dark outside, it was difficult to summon up any clear images of my father. Somehow, that inability to remember him with clarity underscored the finality of his absence.
Today, a year to the day after I got that long-expected call from my sister Rachel, I was going through some scanned family photos that she had sent me this past spring. Although my father was behind the camera a lot more than he was in front of it, there were a dozen or so photos of him at various stages of his life. I have always loved old photographs with their patina of age and amazing depth, and clicking through those black and white photos, I am able to summon the essence of my father in his prime. It was both reassuring and comforting.
The past year has been instructive for me. Having turned fifty in the spring, my own mortality isn’t quite as abstract as it once was. I have been shielded from the reality of death for much of my life, and I have come to see my father’s passing as drawing me more intimately into the circle of life and death. In the face of death, life goes on, and it is the living who shoulder the burdens (and the joys) of daily living. Still, watching my three children come into their own as teens and young adults, somehow the burden grows lighter, if that makes any sense.
Today, as I reflect on the death of my father, I am reminded of others who have passed away this past year, two in particular. At the upcoming Remembrance Day ceremony at the Japanese Canadian cenotaph in Stanley Park, there are two long-standing community members whose absence will be deeply felt. Bev Inouye was the longtime coordinator of the ceremony, spending countless hours rounding up donations for the ceremony and reception, arranging for the various speakers and participants. The daughter of a World War One veteran, Bev maintained, up to the very end, a steadfast commitment to keeping alive the memory of those Japanese Canadians who chose to fight for Canada and we are all the better for it.
Pearl Williams was another familiar figure at the event every year, presiding over the exhibit at the reception following the ceremony. A lifelong film aficionado, the recently concluded Vancouver International Film Festival also reminds us of her passing. Before her health declined precipitously, she always attended as many films as possible at the annual Festival. She had a particular interest in Japanese cinema and if she got particularly incensed at a Japanese film showing at the Festival she would call me up and let me know exactly how it had failed her. A few days later, a barely legible fax would show up in my machine with an always-pithy review of the offending film.
With fall turning slowly to winter, what better time for contemplation and remembrance. If you have never attended the Remembrance Day ceremony at Stanley Park, why not make the effort this year? There is something magical and life-affirming about this intimate gathering around the stone cenotaph etched with the names of the Japanese Canadians who fought and died for their country. Bring gloves and an umbrella.
I hope to see you there . . .