DURING a recent visit to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, thoughts of my own mortality again hit me.
While a fellow journalist and I were admiring the works of the late Ray Yoshida, I soon learned that the Hawaii native, who spent decades painting and molding generations of young artists in Chicago, passed away in 2009. He was one year shy of turning 80.
Depending on your concept of time, Yoshida’s death happened fairly recently. Yet there he was one glorious fall morning, not a day over 60, alive and well if only through his pictures, artworks and art collection.
When it’s our turn
This led me to ask my companion how people would remember us once it’s our turn to leave this world behind. At least, Yoshida and countless generations of renowned artists before him left behind their beautiful and provocative bodies of work as proofs that they once walked on this earth.
But as journalists, we have nothing more concrete to show future generations other than the stories and pages we hastily write and put together. Since neither of us has yet to write a book, the output we produce today as journalists becomes either birdcage liner or pambalot ng tinapa (paper to wrap fish with) tomorrow.
At least, my colleague seems to be in a better position than I am since she edits a monthly glossy, which, arguably, has a longer shelf life than the daily newspaper I write for. But in the grand scheme of things, the works we produce through our chosen medium of expression are merely blips in eternity compared to the works produced by artists, architects, engineers, novelists, scientists, movie stars and film directors.
Buried with us
And unlike most individuals, both of us have no kids of our own to leave behind to supposedly enrich humanity’s gene pool. In short, unless we shift professions tomorrow, our works and thoughts and dreams are likely to be buried with us someday.
It was just my companion’s luck that she was stuck with me as I again entertained such seemingly vain thoughts on my mortality and the supposed legacy I would leave behind, which hit me almost every time I visit a museum, see a really good film, or finish a page-turner of a book: How would people remember me in the future? Would they still even bother to remember or care? How important is it to be remembered?
To her credit, my colleague totally understood where I was coming from. Her reply was short, but it managed to floor me: “They may not remember the details of what we wrote about, but somehow the essence of those stories would continue to live on in their hearts.”
Echoes in eternity
What she said was probably the real-life equivalent of that classic line said by Russell Crowe’s character in “The Gladiator:” “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”
I guess in plain speak, every deed we do has consequences that reverberate and are bound to affect or influence someone somewhere, who, in turn, knowingly or unknowingly, passes them on to others.
As we again honor the memories of our dearly departed, I’m once more reminded of my late relatives, especially my maternal grandparents, and the big and small acts of kindness they had showered us during their time.
None of them were great artists or writers, although I remember my Lolo as my go-to guy whenever I needed illustrations for my school projects. To me, a non-illustrator, his gift in the visual arts came in handy before the dawn of clip art and computer-aided designs somehow leveled the playing field.
Queen of the kitchen
Lola, a homemaker all her life, was the queen of the kitchen. There was nothing fancy in what she cooked, but one could immediately taste the love, dedication and decades of folksy wisdom she herself must have acquired from her elders through her Kare-kare, Pochero, Humba, Chopsuey, Sinigang na Baboy, Pancit Bihon, Ginataang Bilo-bilo and Batchoy.
My mother took after her, and eventually became a domestic diva herself. None of us, especially me, acquired their mastery of the kitchen, although my US-based siblings, probably out of necessity, know their way around those huge, expensive gas and electric-powered ranges.
Like many who came before them, all my grandparents’ works, both mundane and creative, are now buried with them. But their memories as well as their hopes and ideals continue to live on in us their children and grandchildren. Hopefully, a good deal of their goodness and wisdom would somehow trickle down to future generations.
The heart always finds a way of remembering what the mind conveniently and sometimes willfully forgets.