Things left behind, translated…
During the period of mourning over my paternal grandfather’s death, there would be a man, who wore a dark gray suit, with a head of gray-and-white hair, who’d shown up in the early morns, offer the incense, sat in silence in front of my grandfather’s shrine for a short while, then gets UP to leave.
The first time he’d shown up was the third day after my grandfather’s passing.
That, was a foggy morning, at first, he’d paced outside the shrine, looking at the names, and, it seemed that after he was certain of the man who’d died, he’d came into the shrine. The moment he’d caught my grandfather’s photograph on the shrine, he got down on his knees, and started wailing.
My father bowed deeply toward the man who kneeled in front of my grandfather’s shrine, went up, to help him back to his feet again. My father who’s been in mourning a long time, his beard had grown longer now, the two middle aged men held each other’s hands, and, were moved beyond speech.
He’d asked with this muffle in his voice, “Can I go and look at my uncle?”
My father lifted up the yellow towel on the electric freezer bin, the man saw the body through a small pane of glass, he’d lost it, “Uncle! Thank you so much!”
With the cries, dissipating slowly in the chants, he sat on the stool in front of the shrine for a very long time, waited until his emotions were calmed down, cleared his throat, looked at my grandfather’s photo, and started telling of that distant old memory…
Back then, I must’ve been about six, my father went to Tokyo alone to study, there was just my young mother, and a couple of my younger brothers and sisters. Back then, we lived in the Japanese style flat, my mother, my siblings and I were cramped up in one small bedroom. The period that my father had gone to Japan, every night, there would be bad gangbangers, who’d hid underneath the high floorboards, hitting the floorboards to freak us out, to threaten us. My mother would often hold on to us tightly, with fear in her mind, tearing up. I will NEVER forget how scary those nights were.
Later, my mother told me, that uncle was also a young man who’d just gotten married, back then, none of us is rich, but he knew that my mother didn’t earn enough as a seamstress, so, he’d asked everybody to put some rice and vegetables on our doorsteps. And my mother would often tell me when she was still living, to remember that we were raised by our neighbors’ kindness.
After my father returned home, our household economics got better, we’d left our original beaten down shack. And the house we once lived in had become a western mansion, and, every time I’d passed by there, I’d always recalled those days when my father wasn’t around, along with the help from all the neighbors.
I’d kept uncle’s kindness in my mind, but, I’d never had the chance to tell him thank you, until I saw the obituaries in the papers yesterday………
Speaking up to here, the elderly man was in tears.
As the early morning fog dissipated away, the sun made the shrine extremely bright, the enlarged photograph was place in the center of the shrine, and that, was my grandfather, at his best, still healthy and strong.
In the aromatic scent from the incense, I’d thought about that distant time, when people still trusted one another, still helped each other out without questions asked, a simpler, and a more beautiful time.
My grandfather, from that time, seemed to be smiling at me then. In the sadness, and the loss, the sun came in. My dearest grandfather, thank you, for leaving me a most precious, most valuable kind of inheritance.
And so, what is left behind, was the passing on of kindness, and, the man who was helped recalled the kindness, and, he’d come, to pay HIS final respect to the man who’d offered help, and hope, to his family when they were down.