Author Topic: Remembrance by Antonio C. Go: "Flowers for the Living"  (Read 9702 times)

Joe Carillo

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Remembrance by Antonio C. Go: "Flowers for the Living"
« on: November 10, 2022, 09:53:06 AM »
In the Kingdom of Death
Love flowers—
A single lily.

               Matsuo Basho

Flowers for the Living
By Antonio Calipjo Go

Pulling away ever onward, our life is a river whose waters will never get to see their fountainhead again. No river runs backward and yet, by the simple act of remembering, we do get to occasionally visit the spring from which we sprang, that wellspring of sweet waters we call the past. So wondrous strange is the feeling I have that the past lives within me and cohabits with me all the days of my life and will continue to do so till I myself cease to be. For time is a river.

          The flowers for the dead I brought to the graves of my three parents, my riverheads, this afternoon of All Souls’ Day by their redolence bring the past back to life again. This small plot of land houses the remains of my father, who was Chinese, my mother who was from Bangui in Ilocos Norte, and my Chinese step-mother, whose feet, small as a girl-child’s, had been bound in the old way. How the lives of three people coming from different places came to be intimately intertwined in the way they did, and how they eventually came together to find final rest in this one spot, is something I’m afraid I’d never be able to figure out. But here they are in this one place I bought for them who had given me life, together even in the afterlife.

                                                    IMAGE CREDIT: PUBLICDOMAINPICTURES.NET
Thistles And Berries In Winter
         
   Remembering my father rekindled memories of the distant Aprils of my boyhood and my youth, when he himself was young, loved and had been loved, laughed and had been happy. I found myself swimming upstream in the river of time—the river that is fed by the rain in my eyes—chasing after these fireflies in my mind.

          My father had sure, strong hands. He drew and painted, his calligraphy was beautiful, and he was good at carpentry. He was not adept at communicating his thoughts and feelings, often keeping to himself and never showing his emotions. He was to have two wives, with his first Chinese wife giving him four children and my mother, giving him five more. That all nine of us grew to a ripe old age, with not one of us having to endure hunger or resorting to crimes to get by or to get rich, attests to how well my father managed his two disparate households. My father died poor but he went away as quietly as he lived. While not perfect, he was nevertheless a good and decent man.

          My father not only gave me life but also made me what I am today. He sent me to the best Chinese schools. He taught me boxing and calligraphy. He told me to value education and to live with grace and dignity.

          There are times when I miss my old man so much it hurts. I may then be assailed by a feeling so strong I cannot articulate it, just as if my tongue had coiled itself into a knot, or be beset, like now, by an emotion so powerful it blues the evening air this Day of the Dead. The lights from many, many candles come on, the fog is rising and here where I kneel, my feelings are again like those of the boy I was, my thoughts all about the father I lost 40 years ago but whose soft kind voice—numinous and ineffable—still resound in the whispering chambers of my heart.

          I am writing at this time when I’m already 71, near that age when my father died at the age of 75. When we meet in Heaven, will he recognize me as the infant boy he brought into the world when he was 44, or as the 31-year-old young man he left when he died, or as the old man I had become? Would he have grown older still, so that now he is 115 years old? Or will I see him at the prime of his life, when he was this young, handsome and strong Chinaman, his face lit up with the hope that fate will be kinder to him here in this strange alien land, be better than the one he left in far Fujian in old China? Will our hearts leap and lift with joy when we meet at the end of this bridge of dreams we call life?

          Various weeds and grasses abound all around the cemetery, putting forth all sorts of flowers, mostly small and unremarkable. Yet they speak volumes about the love that the dead lying underneath the soil reserve for us the living who live above-ground.

          The dead may be physically absent but their souls and spirits continue to live on in the memories of those they left behind. They remember us the living from where they lie, pushing daisies back up at us, giving back to us flowers from beyond to cheer us up and make us happy, to remind us that they will continue to live so long as we remember them. For to be forgotten is to be truly dead.

          The tears that drench the soil where our dear departed lie sleeping cause these little flowers, these wild daisies and feral lilies, to bestir and to awaken. They cause even the wretched grasses to bloom. Remembering resurrects the dead. All too soon these flowers will outlast both the giver and the given, but their fragrance will continue to stain the air long after both shall have vanished.

          But there is yet an even more enduring and ever-lasting thing that adamantly refuses to die. A wide chasm separates the land of the living from the land of the dead and one long span—the bridge of dreams—connects the two domains. It is a bridge that all of us will have to cross in time and from which there would be no return.

          Love is the only thing that withstands all time, permeates all beings and all creatures—famous or nameless, living or dead—down to our final and absolute nothingness. It is what remains when all else had been lost, when the last futile flutterings of the heart shall have been stilled.

          One fine day we might of a sudden find ourselves forgetful and forgetting, and also forgotten by the world. Then we will come to know what every man must one day know—that all men want desperately to be remembered and to be not forgotten.

   So remember to remember your dead, for that is what keeps them alive.

Mr. Antonio Go, retired academic supervisor of the Marian School of Quezon City, is an advocate of good English usage who has been waging a lonely crusade against badly written English-language textbooks in the Philippines for many years now. Several of his no-nonsense critiques have appeared in the Forum’s “Advocacies” section.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2023, 04:33:00 PM by Joe Carillo »