The recent state visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan was impressive.
In these times of “doing my thing” and of “caring less,” where discipline, good manners and right conduct are practically nonexistent and common courtesy has flown out the window, it was such a boon to witness the epitome of decorum that marked their five-day stay in our land.
The moment they emerged from their aircraft and as they carefully disembarked, there was a visible, tangible and indescribable air of something akin to reverence.
This was not your ordinary state visit. More than 70 years ago, there was enmity, violence, destruction, and all the ugly elements of war.
As a survivor of that sad conflict, I watched the events as they unfolded on TV, and held my breath as a million memories filled my heart.
I was at once that little girl scared of the soldiers, petrified at the sound of sirens and lining up for rice rations. The emperor was a young boy then and was taken to a safe place in the mountains. War is not for little children, no matter where you live or whose side you are on.
I was moved to tears when I saw images of their majesties meeting and exchanging words of gratitude and friendship with Ruby Quirino Gonzalez Meyer, granddaughter of the late President Elpidio Quirino, who during the bloody liberation of Manila lost his wife and three of his five children.
And yet in 1953, Quirino, then the President of the Philippines, granted executive clemency and repatriation for all Japanese war criminals.
Quirino explained that he “had no other desire than to express not merely my humanitarian feelings but the nobility of character of the Filipino people.”
He also said, “I have my remaining children, and their children to follow. I am not going to allow them to inherit feelings of revenge.”
During his visit, the emperor expressed regret and deep remorse for the “massive loss of lives in the war more than 70 years ago.”
Recalling the fierce battles waged by the US and Japan on Philippine soil, he said, “We Japanese must never forget.”
I was awed by his humility. It was a lesson in respect for a time and a place in history, in remembering without bitterness or rancor, in acknowledging past events and taking responsibility.
He paid homage sincerely without pompous airs, and graciously embraced our warm hospitality.
The emperor’s entire reign of now 26 years has been faithfully focused on “achieving peace.”
It must have been profoundly humbling, from his chrysanthemum throne, to seek peace and friendship among former foes despite the tragic stories of the war.
Names come to mind of political characters today not even remotely inclined to ever do a mea culpa.
Power, or the lascivious hunger for it, makes prideful monsters of ordinary human beings. They become puffed up and full of themselves. In Spanish they call it soberbia. It means haughtiness and arrogance.,
In the Bible we read in the book of James: “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I can’t help but think of our coming elections.
On bended knees we must pray for the wisdom to choose men and women who stand for integrity and honesty. Please!
Is it ever over?
As a prelude to Valentine’s Day, let me try to answer this anguished question posed to me a couple of weeks ago by a friend who recently stumbled upon a picture online of her former partner looking quite content with his new family.
Although their breakup was many years ago, she reacted as if it had happened only yesterday.
“I thought I was fine,” she cried, her voice still full of tears.
I was quiet. I first needed to dispel from my own heart the dark clouds of sad memories. Where do I find the words she needs to hear? My heart shouted: Please don’t ask me!
I talked to her about remembered pain; that it’s much like a bruise that looks ugly but does not hurt until you touch it. And when you do, it feels like you were hit anew. It is as if someone clicked the “refresh” button in your heart and you ache all over again.
“But how about the rage I felt? Was that ‘remembered anger’? Is it normal to feel the same insane urge to kill? Does this mean that nothing was ever repaired in my heart?”
I tried to be reassuring. No one is ever prepared for a sudden confrontation with reality. No matter how long it has been, for a moment there, it feels like the bitterness never left, that it was only lulled into silence by the passage of time. But you may have also cried it away.
My friend still grieved. “I thought I had forgiven. I thought I was free.”
We talked. We prayed.
Clarity and comfort finally came. Slowly. We agreed the picture online and her reaction were but a couple of bumps on the road, perhaps just a reminder of how far she had come. I think she smiled.
The way is, indeed, rough and rugged on that uphill climb to complete restoration. For some of us, a lifetime may seem not long enough.
Take heart. Remember there’s a promise. We are not alone. Our Savior walks with us.