The heart remembers what the mind conveniently forgets

MY maternal grandparents are gone but never forgotten.

MY maternal grandparents are gone but never forgotten.

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.

alexyvergara at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center

alexyvergara at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center

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.

THE fair city of Pittsburgh, final resting place of my grandparents

THE fair city of Pittsburgh, final resting place of my grandparents

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.

MY mother Gilda, the blushing bride, with my late Lola Nene, Tita Ching and Lolo Turing, almost 50 years ago

MY mother Gilda, the blushing bride, with my late Lola Nene, Tita Ching and Lolo Turing, almost 50 years ago

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.”

MY PARENTS and I with my late grandmother visit the grave of my Tita Ching

MY PARENTS and I with my late grandmother visit the grave of my Tita Ching

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.

MY late grandmother, fifth from left, with relatives in Batangas

MY late grandmother, fifth from left, with relatives in Batangas

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.

THE late American artist Ray Yoshida and his collections

THE late American artist Ray Yoshida and his collections (John Michael Kohler Arts Center website)

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.

THE day my US-based Lola went to Baguio for the first and last time

THE day my US-based Lola went to Baguio for the first and last time

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “The heart remembers what the mind conveniently forgets

  1. HI schoolmate Alex, I can’t help but comment re-picture of your relatives from Batangas, I know them , they are from my hometown Calaca , Kuya Paquito Vizconde is my brother’s ninong and his wife Ate Tessie , Kuya Romy Vizconde’s house ay katapat ng bahay namin. small world indeed.

    • Yes, we are all connected one way or the other. My Lola and her 8 siblings hail from Calaca through their late father. Only Lolo Paquito is left. It’s sad, but the passage of time is a reality we have to learn to deal with. I haven’t heard from you in a while. Are you based in the Philippines? It is good to hear from you. Thank you for “dropping” by. I hope you continue to read my work. 🙂

  2. i always read your work at PDI online and this blog . i am based in los angeles, i hope next time you could visit calaca again and i’ll be your host. thank you for sharing, and i am still scared in learning how to drive. if you need help at pcso, i know someone who maybe able to help kahit papaano..

  3. I read this when you tweeted about it and decided to read it again. I’m reminded of that song from the musical “RENT” called “Seasons of Love.” And the lyrics hold true, don’t they? However brief or long our lives may end up, people will remember us in different ways.

    I often see “Beloved wife/husband/daughter/son/mother/father” written on gravestones in cemeteries, or hear the deceased described like that in eulogies. But upon hearing it phrased like that sometimes, especially if the deceased was someone I did know personally or was close to, I can’t help but think “He was more than just a great brother; he was .” Maybe that’s just my writer’s instinct kicking in, the need to explain. But in the end, in the obituaries, that’s all the room there is: a life spelled out in the roles played. Hindi kasya ang biography kasi mahal ang rates!

    So you’re right. The ones who get left behind, the ones who still get to live and carry their grief, they will be the living legacy of those who have passed away.

    • Thanks, Mayo, for your feedback. I agree 100 percent with what you said. Who says having a long life is a blessing. Well, yes, it is, but imagine the pain and suffering you have to endure seeing all your friends and loved ones go. Kanya kanya tayong fate dito sa mundo. The important thing is to portray our roles to best of our ability. Naks, parang artista, di ba?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s