Tag Archives: life

Farewell, Mr. Mandela

Farewell, Mr. Mandela,

We never met. I never laid eyes on you in person.

But I saw and heard you on television. I read words about you. And I read your words.

Your
courage
passion
grace
vision

Your
steadfast pursuit of justice
enduring commitment to the people – all the people – of South Africa
understanding of the possibilities opened by forgiveness
willingness to look beyond what is to what could be

touched and awed and inspired me
and countless others.

I give thanks for you,
for your life, and
for your work.

I give thanks that,
though half a world lay between us
we shared life on this
little brown, green, blue rock.

I pray for your family
for you friends and colleagues
for the people of South Africa
for weavers of dreams
and workers for justice
who grieve at your death.

May we know comfort as we mourn.

May we have strength to join you in the struggle for freedom, justice, and dignity for all God’s children.

May we experience your presence accompanying us in that struggle.

Farewell, Mr. Mandela, farewell.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Human Rights

The burden of the living

One last time I straightened my tie.
Unable to forestall the inevitable,
I donned my coat, picked up
the burden of the living
and left my apartment.

Into the cold, grey New York day
I walked to Broadway and turned
toward Union Seminary bearing
the burden of the living
to the scheduled service.

A cab pulled up as I crossed the street,
I noticed others walking – some I knew,
some I did not – all carrying
the burden of the living,
the weight slowing their steps

From east and west, north and south,
many faiths and colors we gathered
in the chapel accompanied by
the burden of the living
held in common, yet unique.

Strains of Springsteen greeted us.
Hearts ached, tears flowed,
as in a fog, shrouded by
the burden of the living
we remembered, sang and prayed.

Parents, siblings, colleagues, friends
we filled that sacred space
and, for a brief, precious time, found
the burden of the living
lessened for being shared.

Songs sung, prayers prayed, after
one last hug, one last, cold tear, we go
into the evening accompanied by
the burden of the living,
giving thanks for Annie Rawlings’ life.

With thanks to my friend Yena Hwang for the image
Shire on the Hudson
Manhattan, New York
12 November 2013

 

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Filed under Family, New York

Remembering Annie Rawlings

The word first came in a simple text from a friend. The precise words have already faded from memory, but their essence remains: “Annie Rawlings died.”

I could not believe it. I tried to deny it. I searched Facebook and other social media looking for something, anything, I don’t know what, to demonstrate that the news was false.

But it was not. Through electronic media and phone calls the confirmation arrived.

Annie Rawlings –
woman of deep faith,
daughter,
sister,
sister-in-law,
aunt,
niece,
cousin,

Annie Rawlings –
maker of peace,
welcomer of new neighbors,
community member,
strategic thinker,
seeker of justice,
builder of coalitions,
pursuer of truth,
builder of bridges,

Annie Rawlings –
ally of those living in poverty,
feeder of the hungry,
challenger of the systems,
clother of the naked,
houser of the homeless,
community organizer,
interfaith advocate,
child of Cleveland,
New Yorker,
citizen of the world,
glocal disciple,

Annie Rawlings –
trusted friend,
valued colleague,

Annie Rawlings –
lover of life,
liver of life,

Annie Rawlings was dead.

Annie died, unexpectedly, on November 2 after snorkeling in Cancun, Mexico where she had gone on vacation.

Annie threw herself into life with a zest and a passion. She lived boldly, bravely, fully. Annie made the most of her life.

Now Annie is dead. The world seems a bit more empty, a tad colder. Annie is dead and with so many others, I grieve.

I grieve for the pain and heartache that her parents and family suffer – pain and heartache that I can only imagine. I grieve for the empty seat at the table, the empty chair in the office, the empty place in the circle. I grieve for a life that ended too soon. I grieve for what might have been.

Yet as I grieve, I give thanks.

I give thanks for Annie’s faith and love. I give thanks for Annie’s living and witness. I give thanks for the lives that God touched through Annie. I give thanks that her memory shines. I give thanks that, while no one will ever, ever replace Annie, others will step up, have already stepped up, to carry on the pursuit of justice and peace to which she gave her life.

I give thanks because even in the face of the sudden death of one so young and vital as Annie, there is love and there is grace and there is God. All will be well for Annie. All will be well for her parents, Chuck and Joan. All will be well for her family and her friends. It may not seem that way now. It may not seem that way any time soon, but all will be well. There will be tears and heartache and great struggle, but all will be well. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

If you have ever read my blog, you know my closing line is: See you along the Trail. Tonight, I am going to give the final word to Annie’s favorite singer. Bruce Springsteen expresses a similar sentiment when he writes;

Further on up the road
Further on up the road
Where the way is dark and the night is cold
One sunny mornin’ we’ll rise I know
And I’ll meet you further on up the road.

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Hug longer

Yesterday the community gathered to celebrate the life of the Rev. Bert Tom. A number of my friends attended. Being on the opposite coast, I did not. 

Bert TomI knew Bert. My friends knew him better. But our paths crossed from time to time.

At the time of Bert’s death, my friend Laura Mariko Cheifetz wrote about Bert and Satoru Nishita, her grandfather who died at about the same time. Her reflections led me to ponder what I had learned from my mentors and family members.

My friend, and another person mentored by Bert, Irene Pak (she blogs at Abiding in Hope) attended the celebration of Bert’s life. She reflects on the celebration in a post from today. It is a warm, touching reflection about what Bert meant to her and to so many. 

Irene frames her thoughts around her last meeting with Bert. A sentence near the end jumped out at me:

I wish I would have known that was going to be the last time I saw you–I probably would have hugged you longer.

Of course we rarely know when the last time we see anyone else will be. I have known with certainty on a few occasions. Sometimes I have had a pretty good idea because of the health of the other person. But over the past week, I have recalled  how fragile life is and how quickly it can end – by illness or by accident or by factors unseen. Quickly let me add that no one died. But events of the week reinforced that lesson.

Not knowing makes Irene’s invitation and challenge more poignant and profound. It also makes it more relevant in every relationship. In response to Irene, it seems that we would do well to ponder if, at all times and all places, we should:

  • hug our family, friends, and mentors longer (or at all in the case of any non-huggers out there – not sure who that might be)’
  • enjoy our family, friends, and mentors  more fully;
  • listen to our family, friends, and mentors more carefully;
  • tell our family, friends, and mentors what they mean to us more regularly; and
  • make time for family, friends, and mentors more often.

Will I?

See you along the Trail.

The photo is shared with permission from Abiding in Hope by Irene Pak.

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Measuring

We may measure our days in
minutes, hours, or
other units of times.

How we fill those minutes, hours, or
other units of time
also measures our days.

We may measure our lives in
months, years,  or
other units of time.

What we do during those months, years, or
other units of time
also measures our lives.

28 August 2013
Louisville, Kentucky

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Filed under Louisville, Poem, Travel

Of life and death; of family and mentors

My friend Laura Mariko Cheifetz has created a blog. Her intelligence, creativity, imagination, love, and passion for justice will make this worth reading.

Her recent post on the death of Satoru Nishita, her grandfather, and Bert Tom, one of her mentors, provides an introduction to her work and an example of what to expect when you subscribe. Here are a couple of excerpts:

My grandfather, Satoru Nishita, and my mentor Bert Tom died last week. I sent a text to a Korean American pastor friend of mine saying, “All these old guys are leaving us.”
This, of course, was not meant to be a theological statement.
This was a statement that was perfectly me: a bit dramatic. I am struggling with the passing of a generation of Asian Americans who faced racism and the assorted foibles of their professions with dignity. The generation of my grandparents, born in the U.S. but imprisoned by its own government for being of Japanese descent during World War II, is a generation that left a profound imprint on my generation and my mother’s generation, and it is slipping away before we get a chance to hear all the stories.

She concludes:

These old guys. While death claimed my grandfather and my mentor, in very different ways their lives taught me to struggle against Death, against powers and principalities, against environmental destruction and racism. They leave us with a legacy of commitment to justice, and a desire that the beauty of the world be revealed.

As she celebrates her family in the post  Laura invites me to remember and give thanks for family members and mentors who taught and shaped me through the years. As I read, I saw Bert’s face (I knew him) and imagined the face of Satoru – I met him through Laura and her mother. As I read, I also saw the faces of those who have been and who now are part of my life. I give thanks for the life of Satoru and Bert. I give thanks for my family and mentors. And I realize I have some calls to make and letters to write.

Check out In Life & In Death, We Belong to God. Remember. Give thanks.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Family

Almost 70 years

20 July 1943 – Toshi-Aline Ohta married an aspiring folksinger about to be deployed overseas.

9 July 2013 – Toshi-Aline Ohta Seeger died.

For the almost 70 years between those two days, Toshi shared life with Pete Seeger. In their partnership, Toshi provided support and counsel and wisdom and stability. Toshi served as the rock that allowed Pete to carry on his work.

Toshi worked as an organizer (Pete noted that she become accomplished at this work because she had to organize him), activist, and filmmaker – she produced a film of work songs by inmates of a Texas prison in Huntsville.

Toshi served as an organizer and programmer for the Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival that has raised funds and consciousness on environmental issues.

Toshi and Pete had four children, one of whom died in infancy.

Woman.

Witness.

Wife.

Partner.

Mother.

Rock.

Activist.

Artist.

Organizer.

Child of God.

Thanks be to God for the life of Toshi Seeger.

See you along the Trail.

 

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