Sometimes you don’t know someone’s life until he or she has died. We attended a memorial service today for a man named Tak, whom we met eight or nine years ago when he was in his late seventies. We only knew him for five years before he moved into various care facilities that served him as he went through the different stages of Alzheimer’s. We knew him as a friendly person who was happy to welcome us into his life. He was quiet, but could be very funny when he chose to speak. He didn’t appear to be someone who was easily ruffled; and it was obvious that he loved his large family.
Today, a biographical account of his life, accompanied by family testimonials, filled in so many details we were not aware of, from many hardships growing up, to service in Military Intelligence during WWII, even as his family was imprisoned in an internment camp, to various successful entrepreneurial ventures.
What saddens me, besides the loss of Tak, is that he had to die for me to learn more about his life. This brought home the fact that I know even less about my parents’ lives than I know about Tak’s life and will never learn more, since my father is deceased and my mother cannot remember the past. At the memorial service, we talked to a couple from Tak’s generation, whom we hadn’t seen in five years. He has had a stroke but seems to function reasonably well. She broke her hip since we last saw her, but her mind is clear. We promised to visit them soon. When we do, I plan to ask them to tell us more about their lives before we met them. It’s the only way I can think of to honor them and in a small way make it up to our elders and family members whose stories are now lost to us.