“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
What book is this from, is it poetry, perhaps?
A poem about love and forgiveness,
life and death, and mercy, and revenge
the beginning and end of the world.
A bit of everything.
Fingers run along an embossed gold cross, upon a beat-up leather cover.
The last one.
There are none like this. All the others gone, destroyed in the wars
or the burnings afterwards.
For a long while after the war,
I had wandered on the road, like almost everyone else.
Back then, there were still many others around.
I didn’t really know what I should do,
or where I was going;
just moving from place to place,
trying to stay alive.
And then one day, I heard this voice.
I don’t know how to explain it,
like something was coming from inside me.
But I could hear it, clear as day.
It led me to this place, I don’t know where really.
And I found this book, deep under the rubble.
It told me that a path would be laid out before me,
that I’d be led to the place where this book would be safe,
that I would be protected against anyone or anything
if only I would have faith.
I have been walking ever since.
I asked for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel need.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for,
but got everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.
-note found from an American Civil War soldier who died on the battlefield
The whispering words as we passed them - “God bless you!”
The eyes where they secretly wiped away tears!
And how they all promised they would be “soldatki”,
- The words of old Russia from earlier years.
The road disappearing past hills in the distance,
Its length that we measured with tears on the run.
And villages, villages, churches and churchyards,
As if all of Russia were gathered in one.
It seemed that in each village we passed through,
The hands of our ancestors under the sod
Were making the sign of the cross and protecting
Their children, no longer believers in god.
You know, I believe that the Russia we fight for
Is not the dull town where I lived at a loss
But those country tracks that our ancestors followed,
The graves where they lie, with the old Russian cross.
I feel that for me, it was countryside Russia
That first made me feel I must truly belong
To the tedious miles between village and village,
The tears of the widow, the women’s sad song.
By old Russian practice, mere fire and destruction
Are all we abandon behind us in war.
We see alongside us the deaths of our comrades,
By old Russian practice, the breast to the fore.
Alyosha, till now we’ve been spared by the bullets.
But when (for the third time) my life seemed to end,
I yet still felt proud of the dearest of countries,
The great bitter land I was born to defend.
-Konstantin Simonov, July 1941
My grandmother passed away 7 years ago today. For those of you who don’t know, (and long story short), I lived with my grandparents the first 5 years of my life in Inner Mongolia; I didn’t really know my parents until afterwards, and I would never want to trade those precious years, those years filled with blessing, joy, and wisdom passed down to me, for anything else.
I still remember the summer 7 years ago (few months before she died), when my mother had (after my grandfather just passed away weeks ago) stayed with my grandmother at her hospital bed day and night, every single day. The night before we left to go back to the US (I had to start school, my mom had to work again), I was with my mother in the hospital and I didn’t fully realize the significant of our moment of departure until later on. As my mother left my grandmother, both of them (though I did not know at the time) realized that this was the last time they were going to see each other in this world. As my mother tried to maintain a steady face (she did not start crying until we had left the hospital, out of my grandmother’s sight), my grandmother told my mother to be strong, to not come back again to visit before she died, to not make the burdened trip, to not come all the way back for the funeral. In this sense, she told my mom to be strong have have faith in facing this death, without the burden of pained emotions and memories that would flow if she had visited again, at the grave or at the deathbed. My mother usually does not cry, but she had been grieving for the past 2 months, also with the passing of my grandfather, and my grandmother knew.
I realize now that this, perhaps, was one of the greatest signs of love that I had ever personally witnessed. Praise the Lord for how He has led my grandmother, from her early days as a shepherd girl from the Inner Mongolian highlands, from the hardship of the frontier to the rural convent school she had miraculously been able to attend, to her deathbed. Truly, she was the one smiling at death as her loved ones grieved over her.
And as she laid dying, she could still bring comfort and joy, hope; she could still allay the fears of her daughter. She had raised my mother to be a strong woman for so many years, and after all this time, she still had one more thing to pass on; she taught my mother to be strong against death, against the worldly pains of loss in death. My mother had been changed by those words. She was over 40 years old, and my grandmother was still teaching her how to be a strong and faithful woman.
I . Lamentation
I close my eyes, dreambound for life.
Flowers wither before me,
treasures stay hidden.
I could not see the first star of spring, but rather:
a rocking chair without a dreamer,
a swing without laughter,
Yuletide without the Passion.
I had scoured in search of the meadows of life, dreambound for life.
Oh, that I could be brought out of
this pit of iniquity and once more
sail the waves of the past,
to a place called home
with a glimpse of the meadows of Heaven.
II . Rise
I close my eyes and slowly begin to see
a Mother’s care,
a multitude of colors, a sea of kites,
a rose grown out of a sidewalk crack.
My five-year-old heart of curiosity had arisen;
perhaps for the first time,
I gaze upon the first star of spring.
The self-same moment when I realized I truly knew nothing,
I could pray once more.
Surely my kind saint took pity on me,
for I felt before as if I was alone on a wide sea.
“He prayeth best who strives to loveth best.”
Sweeter than the feasts, the carefree spirits, the evanescent memories,
It is far sweeter to me to walk together with good company
on the journey to the meadows just begun.
I kid you not, I had written this poem 3 days before Dark Knight Rises came out, originally inspired by thoughts of the Eastern Front of World War II, or the Great Patriotic War for some Eastern Europeans. However, as I watched the Dark Knight Rises (which was somewhat a darker movie than I had expected), I could not help but be reminded of the cities under siege and cities occupied in the Eastern Front at the time (The Siege of Leningrad came to me in particular, although I’m not quite sure why). At any rate, this was definitely one of the most prominent thoughts that I had as I enjoyed the movie, as I saw in Gotham summary executions, the police force as an arm of open and covert resistance, the city with scars covered by snow, the terrors of a city under occupation and under siege from within.
I wish that I could have laid an ear of red corn.
Flowers, grain, when all hope seemed lost,
the world had frozen over, dust to ice;
the Road of Life.
The city never sleeps. The nights are bitter;
the cold waves crash day and night, warp and weft,
man turned to ash.
One dreams of an ephemeral city, one that had never existed,
first contact from outside.
The theaters are made rubble; the ballet dancers continue,
holding fast to the voices of temptation.
“We tried so hard to achieve equality and unity, brotherly love,
but there will always exist rich and poor. Rich in gifts, poor in gifts;
Rich in love, poor in love.”
Through struggle, a glimpse of salvation amidst sin.
They tread thin ice, which might at any moment collapse into the firestorm below.
Fears allayed by thoughts of children, an unmet beloved.
Neither regret nor remorse, convection and instinct lead through such calamity.
They search for the living amongst the dead.
To my man ill will, God bless your life,
redeemed through the winter nights,
hope draws closer, day by day.
(A tribute from Nightwish)
An old man by a seashore
at the end of day
Gazes the horizon
with seawinds in his face.
seasons all the same;
and a ship without a name.
The albatross is flying,
making him daydream;
The time before he became
one of the world`s unseen.
Princess in the tower,
children in the fields;
Life gave him it all:
an island of the universe.
Now his love’s a memory,
a ghost in the fog;
He sets the sails one last time,
saying farewell to the world.
Anchor to the water,
seabed far below;
Grass still in his feet,
and a smile beneath his brow.
He lightens the beacon, light at the end of world,
Showing the way, lighting hope in their hearts,
The ones on their travels homeward from afar.
Sometimes near the end stretch of a run, or when I am exercising when I am extremely tired, I reflect on these thoughts in particular, to give me inspiration, to fuel a passion (that comes out of both hope and anger at perceived injustice); I try to make this my power.
1. Battle of Stalingrad (sunrise on Mamyev Kurgan, the lone soldier stranded in a tank, Pavlov’s house), Shepherd boy from the Urals,
2. Admiral Yi’s somber reflections on the night in Hansando (defense of Asan, Myeongyang, etc), last words in Noryang
3. Jasenovac Concentration Camp (bravery and selflessness beyond words; defense of and rebellion for what is right and true)
(Concentration camp in general) - Seeing the bright, silver planes fly up ahead in the valley of vision, hope - strength, tales of survival, will to live.
4. Siege of Leningrad, Siege of Changchun
5. Joan of Arc - God’s vision, selflessness. “Hold the cross higher, so that I may see it from amidst the flames!”