Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Memories Of Sister Feng (冯姐)

I do not know why I thought of her today. Perhaps my submerged feelings was invoked by the death news of a Taiwanese female artiste, whom I do not know her personally at all; I received the news of her passing, due to a car accident earlier, from the papers this morning.

At the age of 28, and judging from the photos she had taken, one can tell that this artiste was a vibrant and bright girl, who was accompanied and taken care of by a good many friends around her. In this entertainment circle where genuine friendship is hard to come by, she's certainly blessed with it. More than this, she had wanted to be a singer right from the start; just that her career path took a turn and she was moulded into a drama actress first. Nevertheless, as a lady who was trained in piano and violin, and on the course of learning 'erhu' (a two-stringed musical instrument) and drum, she was well determined to enter the musical scene as a music producer. This dream alone can never be fulfilled anymore.

Probably the thought on the fragility of life affected me a little. My mind wandered off and finally, after much activity, rested on this old lady sister Feng. To speak the truth I do not really know whether this was her real surname, or was there supposed to be another address for her. However, judging from this particular address made by my mother to her, and taken in account of her age and seniority in life, my mother could really be addressing her as 'sister Feng', which would naturally be adopting her surname in the addressing.

Sister Feng bore a petite frame; she was probably only about 1.5 m tall. Due to her advanced age of 80 odd, her back was already slightly bent. I knew her through my mother, whom both had taken faith in the Nichiren's Buddhism of the Soka Gakkai International. In the year 1998, I shifted out from my house and resided at my grandmother's. I was staying at one ground-floor unit, and hers was two storeys above mine. As different from other units, all ground level units came with a back door, which would allow anyone who wishes to dry their clothes to do so at the backyard.

Incidentally her kitchen windows are also directly above my backdoor, and if I would to step out of it or stand at the backyard, she would have a clear view of me from above.

Though our distance was near, I didn't really seize the chance to talk to her - I was facing quite a load of problems then, or so I thought. Staying by myself then I had in fact wished for a minimal contact with anyone, lest wanting to deal with a 80 year-old woman who was a friend of my mother, though at the back of my mind I was quite certain she would have been very friendly and kind toward me had there been a chance for us to talk.

Thus in the span of two years plus staying there, I had purposely come to avoid her. Staying alone by herself, if she was to hang or collect her clothes at her kitchen windows, I would try not to step out or made any visual contact with her. If I sensed that she was making her way down the stairs I would also make conscious effort not to bump into her.

If one is to ask me why now, and as objectively as I can toward myself, I will say it was because of her kindness and gentleness she had, particularly toward me. As the son of her friend in faith, she would have welcomed me in all possible ways, even though at that time she would probably have heard a little of my tussle with my family. Without bearing any pre-conceived notions and judgment, she would just perceive and receive me the way I am. In a time when you wished to be alone and shut yourself off from the rest of the world, nothing could be more disturbing than a friendly smile. Nothing could be more irritating than a gentle embrace.

It was in that condition that I chose to reject her out of my life, an old lady who was not married, had no children and was staying by herself. As much and far as I portrayed my unwillingness to have contact with her in anyway, she had not even once displayed any sign of displeasure, impatience or even disappointment toward me. For all that I could remember and recall she was always living in her own rightful manner, never belittling, never grumbling. Petite as she could be she was always doing the household chores all by herself.

There were certainly times I failed in avoiding her. In a small vicinity and neighbourhood like ours, one could never really retreated into one's own shell and be totally cut off from the world outside. For every encounter I had with her she would always greet me in a warm and gentle way, followed by a short conversation. Topics from my work, my recent condition, to trivial matters like my food or lodging, she would inquire them all with a genuine concern and open sincerity. In my confused mind then, I had perhaps detected her sincerity and warmth, and appreciation had probably sunk into me as well. However, upon returning back into my old, shallow and petty self, this appreciation would also be swift in dissipating away, leaving only negligible traces behind.

Among the many days I spent there, there was a particular sight which I could never forget. It wasn't of any special incident or nature, but just a very normal scenario that took place in a very normal day - I was hanging my clothes at the backyard, and raising my head I saw her peeping out from her windows at me. I smiled to her and said a few words worthy of a short exchange, and continued with my chore. However, though time and space have all changed, and today I'm no longer staying there, I had not being able to forget her eyes. It was only when I recollect my memories of her that I realised that when I looked up, I was in fact looking straight into her eyes. Looking at me from above and through those glasses I could remember that her eyes were filled with warmth, concern and even with a small tinge of curiosity. She had probably wanted to see if I could manage the chore well, and if not offer to help. Till this day I could never, never forget those eyes.

I did have a conversation with her before, where she invited me to her house. Chatting up with me she slowly began to move from one topic to the next, very much excited about the things she was sharing with me. Matters ranged from current affairs to buddhism, from politicians to her mentor Ikeda Sensei, from her conviction in faith to her optimistic outlook in life. That was one of the days where my spirit was uplifted and strengthened. Her strength in faith and sharpness in sights in fact had raised my life condition, surprising even myself. That was one day which I could not forget either, as far as I am to live.

About a couple of years after I shifted out of my grandmother's house, I received the news of her death. When the funeral was over, I was told that months before her death her house has had been broken into, which had her possession stolen but, as fortunate as it might sound, she was not present then and thus had suffered no physical harm. That loss had affected her in some ways. Coupled with this was that sometime in that same period she had her leg injured also, which hindered her mobility a little. However perhaps the hardest blow would be the departure of her adopted daughter, whom she had taken over from someone else and single-handedly raised her by herself, had decided to get marry and leave her side for good.

What were Sister Feng's final thoughts when she left this world? What had she wanted to say to those she cherished and loved? What were her unfulfilled dreams and unaccomplished aspirations? I will forever not know of them, for the rest of my life and till the last moment I have in this world! How harsh the tricks of fate and life have played and plagued on her! And how strong she must've resisted them all, fighting and fending them off with all her might! In all of my limited span of mind I will never ever forget the petite frame I saw when I walked past her house, with her sitting in front of and chanting toward the Gohonzon. I will never forget her strength of faith, her immovable conviction in the Gohonzon and in her mentor, her optimism, cheerfulness and courage in facing the trying times in life, and her gentle affection she once had for one lost soul, which has now finally gone back on track.

冯姐, I miss you.

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