Thursday, May 10, 2007

finding my own goodbye

many people asked me about how i felt following the death of my student, and i wanted to return to that briefly so you can have some closure on that chapter. the days following the news, tears leaked from my eyes with zero provocation. i just couldn't believe it. for once in my life, i was perfectly connected to my sadness. sometimes i can't seem to make contact with how i really feel. i felt it was important for me to go to kaori's wake, in spite of how startling my presence might be for the community. i needed to show my support and grief to the people who loved and knew her best. i had never been to any sort of funeral ceremony in japan, so i felt trepidation about what to do, but naoko was there to guide me.
i wore black, but i don't have any black shoes (how do i not have black shoes!?) so i had to wear some bright white tennis shoes. we drove in mostly silence; it was pretty far away, at least an hour and a half. it was the height of cherry blossom time, a widely celebrated part of spring in japan. i remember thinking that without this event, i would never have seen the wild cherry trees blooming stunningly among the pines on the mountainsides around kumano. i also wondered if spring would be tainted for kaori's family from now on. finally we arrived and walked under a low sky to the temple. blooming cherries lined the path, but in front of that were enormous matching boquets from the community. it was a hall of flowers. we paid our respects to the family inside the temple, and i got to see one final picture of her before i was blinded my my own tears. naoko led me as i stumbled back outside. for the next hour, we stood in the cold and mosquitoes as people arrived and left. i saw classmates and family, but no one seemed to weep as hard as me. i wondered why. were they just more private with their feelings? after an hour, though, my tears came more slowly and i watched the sunset as the skies cleared. it was an incredible evening, solemn but more and more beautiful. my spirits lifted, and then we drove home.

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