From Issa’s The Year of My Life

It is a commonplace of life that the greatest pleasure issues ultimately in the greatest grief.  Yet why—why is that this child of mine, who has not tasted half the pleasures that the world has to offer, who ought, by rights, to be as fresh and green as the vigorous young needles on the everlasting pine—why must she lie here on her deathbed, swollen with blisters, caught in the loathsome clutches of the vile god of pox?  Being, as I am, her father, I can scarcely bear to watch her withering away—a little more each day—like some pure, untainted blossom that is ravished by the sudden onslaught of mud and rain.
              After two or three days, however, her blisters dried up and the scabs began to fall away—like a hard crust of dirt that had been softened by the melting snow.  In our joy we made a boat with fresh straw, and pouring hot wine ceremoniously over it, sent it down the river with the god of smallpox on it.  Yet our hopes proved all in vain.  She grew weaker and weaker, and finally on the twenty-first of June, as the morning-glories were just closing their flowers, she closed her eyes forever.  Her mother embraced the cold body and cried bitterly.  For myself—I knew well it was no use to cry, that water once flown past the bridge does not return, and blossoms that are scattered are gone beyond recall.  Yet try as I would, I could not, simply could not cut the binding cord of human love.  

The world of dew
Is the world of dew,
And yet . . .
And yet . . .

(The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa’s Oraga Haru, by Nobuyuki Yuasa, p. 103-104)

When we meet, we will smile

Each year during our Obon and Hatsubon Service, I am reminded of the power of the Buddhadharma to provide guidance and support for us as we navigate our feelings of grief.  As school for my sons usually begins a few days after our San Mateo Buddhist Temple Obon Observance, I have come to associate our Obon with the end of summer.  Opening the freezer at the temple to put away the Obon service manju for an occasion when we can all enjoy them together, I noticed three large bags of frozen hamburgers.  I was suddenly reminded of the delicious hamburgers grilled at the temple picnic and all the experiences that we did not get to have this summer: bazaar—which marks the start of summer in my mind, the annual BWA service at the Japanese Cemetery in Colma, followed by brunch with BWA members at Denny’s in South San Francisco, a family trip to Japan, our summer Terakoya day camp, spam musubi at Obon Odori practices, and chanting together with a Hondo full of attendees at our Obon and Hatsubon service. 

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