It is true, the body never forgets.
And sometimes I think, the universe too. For every July seems long, hot, and oppressive. I will feel hot and bothered, tired and sticky, sad and unbelieving. But then, I guess July’s weather seldom change much.
However, this year is a bit different. Lyra has been told about Ferdinand, so we can all finally talk openly about him. Also, instead of staying home and drowning in grief, we ventured out.
We went to the Grafton Peace Pagoda. I had read about it in a magazine, and last week while we were out picking blueberries at a farm about 15 minutes away from it, we decided impromptu to drive by the pagoda to have a look. It was such a beautiful setting and I could feel peace while walking on the grounds, I decided to go back on Ferdinand’s anniversary, perhaps to sit on one of the many benches on the site and write Ferdinand a letter.
It was supposed to be a hot day so we planned to arrive early. We decided to walk to the pagoda via the “natural trail” instead of up the driveway. It was a lovely walk, full of greens, and we saw quite a number of cairns along the way.
When we emerged from the forest, we were greeted with birds chirping, butterflies fleeting, and bees buzzing.The peace stupa stood regal against the blue sky.
We decided to explore the grounds a bit more, using the verdant paths that some kind and wonderful volunteers must have carved out and maintained:
After that we found the nun who takes care of the peace pagoda, Jun Yasuda. She first invited us to go to the prayer room for a simple welcome ceremony. We kneeled on mats while she chatted the peace prayer Na-Mu-Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo three times, bowing deeply each time. Then she asked where we lived, our names, and so on. I explained to her that we were here because we visited briefly on Saturday and found it to be so peaceful we wanted to be here again on this special day, and was hoping to be able to volunteer for a couple of hours, in honor of Ferdinand. She was very compassionate about it. She showed us to the shed, where we helped to pour sand into various receptacles that will serve as luminaries for Hiroshima Day. Lyra was so happy to be the one to drop a tealight into each receptacle. Jun-san (as would be the way to respectfully address a Japanese) was surprised that we accomplished that pretty fast and asked if we could transport two buckets of gravel located on the steps of the pagoda to a commemorative peace pillar and spread the gravel around. The buckets were pretty heavy so it was team work together with the wheelbarrow. The girls saw some weeds on the ground surrounding the pillar and decided that we should weed as well, so we did just that. When we were about three-quarters way through, Jun-san told us to please stop and come to the prayer room, where she conducted a simple but beautiful flower-offering ceremony for Ferdinand’s spirit. She had cut 12 stalks of flowers growing on the grounds and put them in a bucket. Once she started beating on the drum and chanting, we took turns to pick a flower from the bucket, and then go forward to an altar table to put the flower into a vase, and then bowed three times. Jun-san told us we should bring the vase of flowers home.
And then we were invited to the kitchen for a simple cup of cold barley tea and some cookies. There she told us about the peace cranes and the wonderful people who come to visit the peace pagoda. The stories were just amazing.
We went back out to finish spreading the gravel after tea, and then we took the vase of flowers and went home.
We were hot and tired from our work, but we all felt a sense of peace washing over us. It felt good to say his name out loud and have someone hold his name gently, and our grief so compassionately, without trying to explain it away or be told to not feel sad or to move on. During lunch we all agreed that we were glad to have gone to the peace pagoda. Val even said she feels she is not so sad anymore. Sophia and Lyra did not say anything. Val asked how I felt.
I could not really answer, because I still felt that choke in my throat and tears welling up. I felt more at peace, but I still felt sad. I think, that sadness will always be there, but it may feel less strangling. That sadness is just my body feeling love and longing for my son, the star voyager.
Still missing you deeply, Ferdinand, and hoping you are happy where you are. We all love you.