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I attended a memorial service at Nikkei Place in Vancouver B.C. for a woman I did not know yesterday. I was not the only one in attendance who did not know the deceased. I suspect that like those others I did not leave without a sense of who and what this woman had been in life; but the most resounding question in my mind wasn’t who she had been, but what she could have become under different circumstances. Fumiko was an artist, a trained artist with a gift for seeing the transcendental through the mundane. Her sketches and watercolors show a familial link not as an indifferent world might view a single life, but as she did, ultimately personal and intimate yet discretionary and honest.

Stressed often during the memorial was the sense of artistic freedom to be and do, to go, where the art takes you and to live life lightly and fully with little focus on financial gains or status. From all accounts, this was the approach that Fumiko and her family took emphasizing the art, the beauty, the simplicity while managing to raise a family on little more than love. Some think this is romantic, the artists plight. The starving artist who sacrifices for their art. Some in the room were perplexed by this notion. Some others were so obviously entrenched in their own personal sense of status and culture that I wonder if they understood the message at all, or worse thought it childish and irresponsible. The artists culture, this particular artists focus wasn’t her art at all, but her family and her community. That dedication to family was clearly represented in the speech of those who knew her well, those who openly spoke talked of heart, of love and of feeding the community both literally and philosophically.

A nearby bystander when asked their relation to the deceased said ” I read of the memorial in the bulletin, and I came because I thought I might be inspired.”  Not unlike the unknown bystander,  I was inspired, and more than once moved to tears, although I tried to hide them. More important than the emotions of yesterday are the thoughts that have been provoked, thoughts about life, death, and making something of oneself that in the end is a source of pride and joy. Today I have more questions than answers, and my thoughts are running deep. It’s a cautious place to probe, emotionally raw and fraught with what ifs, and absolutely worthy of exploration.

My thanks to Fumiko’s family for honestly portraying an unvarnished life from beginning to end without the typical airbrush strokes or convenient omissions.  Thanks are also extended to the family and friends who contributed their considerable musical talent in honor and celebration of the departed. Sincere thanks to John, Amy, Emi and Kaya for including me in what must have been a difficult day for each of you.

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