living in before

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there,
wondering, fearing, doubting,
dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

Edgar Allan Poe

“Some dreams are best not to wake up from.”
Hiroo Onoda


(before the beaver, there was a tree / on the shores of Mackinac Island, Lake Huorn /
Julie Cook / 2017)

Following the official unconditional surrender offered by the
Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu,
on behalf of the nation of Japan on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri…
a ceremony presided over by General Douglas MacArthur,
Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Pacific…
life for a handful of soldiers remained unchanged…
their lives, duty and existence continued on as it had before the surrender.

For despite the war having been officially declared over, there remained a smattering
of Japanese soldiers hunkered down and holding on to various small
South Pacific islands…
soldiers, cut off from commanding units and or communication, all unaware
that their nation had surrendered let alone that the war was now
indeed officially over.

Hiroo Onoda was one such soldier.

Onoda had been trained as an intelligence officer…
specifically trained to gather intelligence in order to carry out and conduct
a guerrilla war against the enemy.
He, and a unit of men underneath his command, had been taken to Lubang Island
in the Philippines with direct orders.

On December 26th, 1944, Onoda was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines.
His orders from his commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, were simple:

You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand.
It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens,
we’ll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier,
you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts.
If that’s the case, live on coconuts!
Under no circumstances are you [to] give up your life voluntarily.

Daven Hiskey
Feb 9, 2010
‘Today I Found Out’

Following the end of the war Onoda fought on for another 29 years …

Onoda had refused to believe the “propaganda” in the way of dropped leaflets,
villagers pleas or former fellow Japanese soldiers sent to tell Onoda the truth.
He refused to believe any of it but rather was convinced it was all a ploy
by the enemy to take control of the island.

Until 1975 when his former commanding officer,
now an old man working at a bookstore in Japan,
was brought to the island to convince Onoda of the truth.

Reluctantly, yet ever the solider, on March 10, 1975 at the age of 52 an emaciated
Hiroo Onoda put on his 30 plus year old dress uniform and marched
from his jungle hideout to present then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos
his samurai sword.

Over those 30 years Onoda’s small band of fellow soldiers had either
eventually surrendered or died…
but Onoda remained a loyal guerrilla fighter making life miserable for the local
islanders. The islanders did their best to convince Onoda that Japan had
surrendered and that the war was over. During the 30 years Onoda fought his single
war, 30 villagers were killed and 100’s of others were wounded by this
lone guerrilla fighter

The story in itself is fascinating as well as sad.

Yet Onoda’s story is not just a story of survival or of disbelief,
or of skewed conviction but rather his is a tale about living life
in the before verses the after.

There was a single event that had marked the end of the war…
However Onoda had not been privy to that event.
He had not witnessed the surrender.
He knew his Nation’s determination.
He did not actually hear with his own ears the words spoken by his leaders.
He had been given a single command, and until he heard a reversal command
from his commanding officer, he would do his duty and serve his nation to his
utmost ability.

Rarely is such conviction found in men.

I thought of this story yesterday following the news I received regarding
the death of my aunt. Whereas she had been sick and even worsening,
the death from cardiac arrest came suddenly and unexpectedly yet in hindsight,
most likely blessedly.

Had I not answered my phone yesterday morning….
in my small narrow world, my aunt would still be alive.
She would be living on in my perceived reality.

For had I not heard the word, had I not been informed of the factual event
I would have gone on as before…knowing she was sick, fighting cancer, hanging on…
but not having died….not just yet.

The life of living before or the life of living after.

Before is usually what we know, what we’ve come to expect and what we rest in.
After equates to new, different, unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

In all of this I think of Thomas, the doubter.
The one disciple who had not been with the others when a risen Jesus
had manifest himself to their broken hearts.

And as Thomas happened to be away from the group, still broken hearted,
still wounded of spirit, still grieving…
he refused to believe the fantastical and or miraculous offered by his friends.

“Not until I see with my own eyes, put my hands in his wounds…I will not believe.”

Oh how we are all so convinced by the acknowledgement of our senses.
Convicted by sense.

For Onoda, the war had actually been over for those 30 years he lived in a
remote jungle fighting a non-existent war.

For my aunt, she died at 12:40 yesterday afternoon had I or had I not
answered the phone.

Jesus rose with or without Thomas having been present to see, touch, hear, feel…..

But because Jesus knew that we would all be so much like Thomas—needing
to be convinced, He offered Thomas, who continues offering each of us
the acknowledgement….
“my Lord, my God….”

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them,
“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger
in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.
The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said,
“Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas,
“Put your finger here, and see my hands;
and put out your hand, and place it in my side;
do not be faithless, but believing.”
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him,
“Have you believed because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

John 20:24-29

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2541104/Japanese-soldier-Hiroo-Onoda-refused-surrender-WWII-spent-29-years-jungle-died-aged-91.html

“Once you are REAL, you can’t be ugly” or The life of the little stuffed bear

Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

DSCN3044

He didn’t always look this way.
At some point, very long ago, the stitching was still attached forming the mouth. There was a small bell in the right ear, the one that now has the hole, which tinkled each time he was moved. The neck was not so floppy as there was not the gapping tear. And of course there was the fuzzy fur.

I don’t know when he came into my life, or who had given him to me.
I don’t remember life before him because he was always present.
He just always was.
His name was / is Cubby. I suppose the name was intended officially as Cubby bear, but I simply recall “Cubby”

When do these sorts of things disappear from one’s life?
How is it that one day they are there, ever present, acting as the sentinel guard to one’s very being, then oddly, years of a lifetime pass-by without their ever vigilant presence–the keeper of one’s small soul, only being suddenly rediscovered, packed away in some musty old box buried amongst the debris of Life?
How is that?

And so it goes— my life with Dad which now slowly morphs into something else. Something other than. Something that was not what it is today. Something now odd, now strange, now challenging, now different.
The boxes which are now slowly being unearthed, as I work to clean out the house of what was–those boxes which have been entombed in the depths of a seemingly ancient basement and attic, all which contain the pieces of my life from back then.
“Back when?” you ask.
Back then, as in. . .my life before.
“Before what?” you ask.
Before I was who I am today.
Before I grew up to be 54.
Before I retired from the classroom.
Before I was a mom.
Before I was a wife.
Before my brother’s suicide.
Before Mother died from the cancer.
Before Dad had Alzheimer’s.
Before.

Before all of that, he was whole.
He had fur.
He was not torn, nor broken.
He was out living and not buried in a box.
He was ever present.
He was a constant in a life full of the flux of growth.

Each night as I readied for bed, Dad and I had a ritual. I’d climb in the bed and dad would be across the room over at the little baby doll’s bed which acted as the “day bed” for my menagerie of stuffed animals. I would call out a name and Dad would gingerly toss over the lucky recipient, of my heart’s desire, to my small waiting arms. The arms that would eagerly catch “a loved one” for the journey to dreams.
Cubby was always first.

I wonder if Dad remembers that?

There was the good night hug and kiss, the lights turned out as I nestled myself down into the covers and pillow with stuffed animals on either side acting as insulating protectorates as Cubby was held tight. Tiny girl prayers were said. “God bless, Mommy. God bless Daddy. God bless Humpty Dumpty (the other ever-present sentinel), God Bless Cubby. . .”

And so it went, or so it seemed, until one day, it all obviously changed and that person ceased being.

Life is funny that way. One day you’re a young person engulfed in the world of care and love—then poof, you’re now the one offering the care and love.

All of the “before” being long forgotten, that is until the box is found and opened.
Until the life that “was” is unearthed, resurfacing from the packed away Past.
Then, and only then, do the memories suddenly become the Present.
Time stands still.
It is no longer “now” but rather it is “then.”

The secrets told to the fuzzy little bear are magically recalled as instinctively you pull him close in your arms, holding tight to what was. The smell, his smell, it seems to linger. Is it real, or merely imagined?
He contains the countless tears of a little girl. They are all still there. He’s held them all, all these many years. He seems so small.
You bury your face against his face–just as you did so long ago.
He made things better.
He loved you when you were sent to your room for some slight indiscretion of youth.
He loved you when you had the fever, the chicken pox, the skinned knees, the black eye.
He loved you when it thundered.
He loved you when the lights were turned off.
He loved you when your grandfather, your “Pops”, died.
He loved you when you started school.
He loved you when you had your first crush
He loved you when you had your first heartache.
He loved you when you left for college.
He loved you while he waited.
He loved you.

Then one day, he went in a box.
He went away.
I went away.
Life grew big—almost too big. Overwhelmingly big.
Grown up life is not always cracked up to what children imagine—just ask any adult. Childhood has imagination and magic. Adulthood, not so much.
And just when things seemed big, too big— there he was, again.
Out of the blue.
Out of the box.
He looks sadly tired.
I look sadly tired.
But it is him and he is the same.
I am the one who has become different.
I changed.
He did not.
Thankfully, he did not change.

To anyone else, he is but a sad little stuffed old bear. He is torn, broken, ragged, ripped and furless—not even GoodWill material.
But. . .to me, he is beautiful.
He is REAL.
He is hope.
He is happiness.
He is safety.
He is who I was.

And today, I need to be reminded of that very thing—who I was.
And for that, I am once again thankful to the little brown, once fuzzy, bear who long ago held my hopes and dreams in his little imagined heart.
I would like to think that he still has a bit of room in that heart of his to hold a few more of those tears, those hopes, those dreams of mine. . .and because he has withstood the test of time and of a life well worn, and he doesn’t seem to mind the rips, the tears, the holes, the worn away fur–for in all of this is the hurt of becoming REAL. . .

God bless Cubby. . .