Sunday, March 23, 2014

Falling Down on the Job

Peter tells me that I'm falling down on the job because I haven't written anything on this blog for so long. The days go by, and I think of it, and I think of Leif, and then I wonder what I can say. What is there new to say? Maybe one day I will remember some new stories about his life. Maybe one day I will have a new insight about his life and death. Maybe one day I will feel differently and have that to share. Maybe one day I will find a new photos I can post.

But those days have not arrived. So, what do I post then?

I looked through a stack of photos of Leif that my mother had, among a large box of loose photos I have sorted to return to those in them. The ones of Leif were all either those we had given to her or some she took and had provided copies of, so I found nothing new there.

One reason I haven't posted anything in the last few months except on his birthday is that I was taking care of my mother during her latest bought with another fractured vertebra and rehab. It's only during this week that I've managed to begin to catch up with all I didn't get done in the past two-and-a-half months.

Leif is never far from my thoughts, and often he completely occupies them. It still hurts so deeply that he is gone. I don't want to accept that it's true that I will never see him again.

I look up from my computer at the collage of photos of his life that Darlene made for us back in April 2008, and even in that limited number of photos I see so many aspects of his life, so many experiences. I look at the pictures I've posted on this blog and see a rich tapestry of experience. Maybe that's why living alone, with no one to love, just going daily to a job he hated, being broke from one paycheck to another, was so hard for him to live with. Life had not been like that when he was a child and a young man with us. While he never had a lot of spending money and wasn't allowed to get expensive clothes and shoes, while he never had the incredible amounts of toys kids today seem to have, he did have a life rich in experience and grounded in love. Perhaps as an adult, alone, he was like a starving, thirsting man in a cage.

I tried to find a photo of him I hadn't posted already, and I think this one hasn't been on the blog before. It was taken at the Hase Kannon Temple, or Hase-dera, in Kamakura, Japan around 1980 when Leif was about five years old. He's eating some kind of treat, and looks so sweet and calm.

That particular temple is a very poignant one. Well known for its 30 foot tall statue of Kannon, the temple grounds are full of small statues of Jizo, some with toys or tiny pieces of clothing like crocheted caps or rattles, and nearly all with red collars. These are placed all over the steep sides of the area by parents who are mourning children they lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion. At the time we lived in Japan, it was difficult to find anything written in English about these statues and why they were there, but I was told by my Japanese friends. According to Wikipedia, there are estimates that "some 50,000 Jizo statues have been placed at Hase-dera since WWII." Apparently, they are removed after about a year to make room for more. I don't know what happens to the ones that are removed.

In our culture, we don't seem to have any such formal way to mourn the loss of an infant that never had a chance to live. The custom seems at once poignant and kind and yet inexpressibly sad.

Leif, of course, had no idea what all those little statues surrounding him were for. He was just enjoying the outing to some of the great temples of Kamakura with us that day. We went by train, something he always enjoyed.

He was tall for his age, but so innocent and vulnerable, though I don't think any of us realized it because of his strength and his quiet way of holding himself in.

It seems somehow appropriate and sad that I have this photo of him at that temple.