Cakewalk Chronicles – Slowing down and being at peace

Esther Darlington MacDonald's monthly column about life in a small Interior town.

The Measure of a Man

Words are never enough to convey the particular intensity of a sudden death. The news of the passing of Aki Kanamaru of Ashcroft came as both a shock and a sense of loss that many of us experienced earlier this month. Word got around with lightning swiftness. Sympathy for Hiroko and family poured in.

I called Hiroko. She spoke frankly. Aki had taught his usual karate earlier that evening. He enjoyed his supper. They sat down to watch TV. At 10 pm, Hiroko went upstairs to bed. About 2 am she woke.  Aki was not in bed. She went downtstairs. The TV was still on. But Aki wasn’t in the room. Alarmed, Hiroko found Aki a few minutes later in the study. The shock must have been profound.

As I entered the community hall on Sunday, Dec. 15, the evidence of the impact that Aki had in this community was immediate and compelling. Row after row filled. Pastor Jeff Beck and wife Pat had come from the Lower Mainland. Jeff conducted the service. It was so good to see Jeff and Pat again!  They had played a vital role in our communities of Cache Creek and Ashcroft. Jeff, as former Pastor of Cache Creek Pentecostal Church, and Pat as landscape architect of our beautiful Heritage Park on Railway Street. They lived here for nine years.

Wyatt McMurray’s memories of Aki was one of the most moving eulogies I have ever heard. Aki’s personality, character, – the strength of which was felt by so many hundreds of youth and older persons, followed by testimonials from Tom Watson and others whose lives had been deeply effected by Aki, was equally moving. I learned so much more about Aki, whom I had interviewed for The Journal in 2012. He was so unassuming. His quiet dignity, contained manner, was different from the usual interviews. So I was terribly moved by the fuller picture of the man.

Aki accomplished so much! Contributed so much to the communities here. The establishment of ESL program for Japanese students, a three-month program, included the former Mayor of Bifuka. Hiroko helped with the management of the program, teachers, billets for the students, adding so much to our people here, acquainting us with people a world apart geographically, yet united in a common bond of fellowship. An incredible undertaking, when you realize the logistics (planning) involved. Aki’s contacts with the professional forestry people in Japan, forged the twin city designation that linked Ashcroft with Bifuka. This too, took planning and negotiations. It has been a meeting of our communities for 20 years. Plans are now under way to travel to Bifuka to celebrate.

The impact of Aki’s moral and ethical values inculcated in his Karate programs, which excelled in many places and won at tournaments, giving our local young people the confidence and values they would use later in life, has left a lasting legacy. The influence of this man, small in stature, but a giant in character, is long lasting. Never to be forgotten.

Nelson Mandela

The world waited for his passing. We’d been alerted for months about Madiba’s deteriorating health.  The man whose cry for freedom for his people reverberated around the world. The man who had ushered in the breakdown of the hated Apartheid regime. But when the news came, the world gave a collective intake of breath. Mandela had joined the icons of freedom and equality with Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and John F. Kennedy. Another of the world’s brightest lamps had gone out.

Yes, South Africa is still rife with problems of poverty, corruption. But the living example of Nelson Mandela will surely endure, and hopefully, bring the necessary changes. Patience. In due course. Here was the man who learned the  language of his jailers so that he could speak with them. The man who had laboured at the quarries of South Africa, been imprisoned for 27 years. And when he was released and made the leader of his people, he took up the hands and arms of his former persecutors, in a massive gesture of victory and reconciliation that touched hearts around the world. The people danced, sang, celebrated their leader’s passing. Recalling, “I bring death as a messenger of joy”. Heralding the hope of a beautiful people who have endured and will continue to grow. The long journey for them, has just begun. And, they know it.

Georgette Bewza

Another fine Ashcroft citizen passed into the Great Immensity on Dec. 1. Her passing brought together many people from all walks of life at Ashcroft’s River Inn. Georgette’s culinary skills, domestic crafts coupled with her boundless energy, creativity, was a hallmark. Tall, dignified, a self contained personality, yet passionate, generous in spirit, Georgette’s personality and character were marked very capably and with a good dash of humour by Craig Munro.  The banquet room was full, standing room only. A testimony to the admiration that so many felt for Georgette.

December is ever a “dark” month in our area. But the lights of those who lived with us and contributed so much shine out. We will not forget them in our lifetime.

Harry Lali and that election

A luncheon was held for Harry at Chums Restaurant in Cache Creek on Dec. 10. Harry looked handsome, fit and relaxed. He had holidays with family in New York and Hawaii. He was as teasing and humorous as ever. Naturally, after the delicious food was consumed, the talk immediately turned to the Election. People expressed their views frankly. The leadership had failed the MLAs. The slam dunk assumptions had turned into a devastating, humiliating defeat for the NDP. It was time to take stock.  And that is what our small group of about a dozen did that afternoon.

Tich Nhat Hanh

The Buddhist priest came to us via video last Friday of November, and has done so for a couple of years. I didn’t know about these periods of meditation and reflection. But my sister-in-law, Beverley Zacharias, suggested that I attend. The meetings are held in the private room in St. Alban’s Hall the last Friday of every month. Tich Nhat Hanh’s reflections have profoundly impacted millions of lives.  Helped us to slow down. Listen. Look. Breathe. Jean loaned me a book, Peace At Every Step, by Tich Nhat Hanh. I read and reflect a little every day. Learning to live with yourself, your fears, anxieties, angers, – all the emotions of Life on this journey. Learning to appreciate “every step”, every breath.  2013 has been a difficult year for Sherman and I. It seems my Maker has offered resources I never knew I had. I am grateful. O yes, – learning to measure every ounce of life with a grateful heart is not a difficult exercise.

My family is coming

They will be here on my birthday, Dec. 21. I am excited. Making ready for their visit. Yes, Ayisha tells me, we will all attend Christmas Eve services at St. Alban’s church. What a thrill it will be to introduce them to my church family!

Peace Be With You

At this special time. And may the coming year bring joy and fulfillment!

Esther Darlington MacDonald