August 13-16, 2015
Obon Letter for Dr. Hans G. Laetz from Catrien Ross
In Japan, it is Obon, the August 3-day festival of the dead.
So I am grateful for this unusual way to honor your returning spirit.
I especially want to observe this first Obon since your death last year – your so-called nibon.
At the front door, a lighted fire points the way, welcoming and guiding your spirit here.
Cucumber and eggplant have been picked fresh from the garden and your spirit animals stand ready.
The cucumber horse serves to carry your spirit here as swiftly as possible.
Your departure on the eggplant cow is meant to be much slower, a reluctant leaving when Obon is over.
From the wilder part of the garden comes hozuki, the orange pods representing light.
For me it is also a memory of your love for the green exuberance growing here.
Beside your photograph, I have set out your Obon gifts.
A Bavarian coaster, a bottle of Bavarian beer, and the bottle opener with its enamel inlay of Ortenburg, your little hometown in Germany.
The bottle opener was a gift you brought me long ago, and I have treasured it through the years.
As the standing Obon lantern rotates, illuminating my memories, I feel my loss.
Throughout the 20 years since I moved to Japan, you and I talked with each other just about every day.
How I miss your sense of humor, your gleeful use of English, your funny stories, your original interpretations.
On your visits here, you and I prepared your intended living space, and you regretted so much that in the end, you were unable to return.
Neither you nor I foresaw what would happen in the last few months of your life, and I know we have both felt such sorrow about that.
I also know that nothing can ever diminish what you and I shared through 38 years of enduring love, no matter what anyone says or does otherwise.
Tonight, the third and last day of Obon, I will place your spirit animals on the bank of the small stream that flows by the house.
Obon will end with the departure of your spirit with the water’s flow.
But your journey continues.
Months after your death I finally learned that the Pacific Ocean currents will carry your ashes to these shores.
You will reach Japan again after all, and your spirit will return once more to this mountain minka you so loved in life.
Have a safe journey, Hans.
You are deeply loved.
You are deeply missed.
P.S. Details of my Obon for Hans are shown in my YouTube video:
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