March 11, 2016
Dear Family and Friends,
March 11, 2016 was a gorgeous day. The air was cold and sharp, the sky was cloudy, but kind. It was a perfect day for turning inward to honor the past. It was a perfect day to look outward to continue the long stretch of becoming.
Downtown Sendai that day was bustling. Life as usual. The coastal areas were alive, too, but in a very different way. This year marked the 5th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. So, memorial services were plentiful and well attended. I returned to Arahama, where I had explored several weeks before, because of the special event being held there.
I arrived before the official program began. I wanted to attune to the place, the energy there, and sense how it differed from my recent visit when I was alone. People had already begun to assemble. Some gathered near the landmark elementary school, now ruined and empty. Others clustered at the temporary Buddhist temple. But most headed straight to the statue of Kannon, The Goddess of Mercy, who remained standing despite the powerful force of the tsunami that demolished everything around Her. Behind Her was the new tsunami wall, which many had climbed to bow their deepest respects to the life-giving, life-destroying sea beyond.
Despite the barren land and fragile foundations of houses, the entire area was filled with the pungent scent of incense and rolling chants, accentuated by bells and gongs, drums and prayers. A steady stream of people in black and carrying flowers continued to pour in. They came locally and from afar, from all over the country, in fact. All came to pay their respects to those lost and those who lost on that tragic, life-altering day.
Shortly before 14:46, the exact time the earthquake struck, official prayers began. “Our beloved ancestors, we are here today to honor you. Thank you for joining us as we remember you and pay our deepest respects for all you did for us. We know that you still care for us, as we do for you. Please do not worry about us. We miss you tremendously, and are deeply appreciative of all your support in this world and beyond. Rest assured that we are working hard to build a future so that your progeny will prosper, and the land and sea will become abundant with life once again. Thank you for your presence today. We honor you. And now please return to your heavenly abode and rest peacefully once again.”
Then, as if on queue, all heads bowed in unison, and a profound silence emerged from the earth itself and from the depths of our souls. Gratitude and promise: the past and the future as one. At the same moment light streamed through the clouds, surely a blessing that blended our small lives and huge efforts with those visiting us from above.