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.
I 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.
See you along the Trail.
The photo is shared with permission from Abiding in Hope by Irene Pak.
Filed under Family, Friends
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.
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.