To honor the memory of the late Kazuko Takemura, a feminist famous for her activism as well as introducing theorists such as Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek, Gayatri Chaktravorty Spivak and Trinh T. Minh-ha to Japan, WAN is posting a series of eulogies delivered by her fellow activists and scholars both from Japan and overseas.
In Memoriam of Kazuko Takemura
All the right words seem to escape me.
I was left speechless for days when I realized how suddenly my dear friend Kazuko has left us.
It was only over a year ago when we saw each other at the International Colloquium Fazendo Genero (August 2010) to witness and partake in, together with thousands of scholars from Latin America and from around the world, the exhilarating force and contribution of Gender Studies. I would always remember Kazuko’s witty, playful and generous presence in all the events we attended, in Brazil, in Japan, in the US., more particularly during the year when she came to our department at the University of California Berkeley as a visiting distinguished feminist scholar (2009).
Today, Kazuko vividly appears to me as Spring blossoms brighten anew Berkeley’s every street corner and alley. What poignantly comes back to mind was the memory of the time when I was mourning the loss of my younger sister, Quynh, who passed away peacefully in March 2009, right in the midst of Spring. As I shared mine and my family’s utter grief with Kazuko, she sent me a most beautiful note, one that I would like to share with you since it speaks volume for the radiant Kazuko whose generosity as a scholar and courage as a translator and a feminist I have greatly benefited from.
After having written kind words of condolences, reminding me how “even though we have been informed of the seriousness of illness, the death of our beloved person always comes to us all of sudden,” Kazuko sent me a poem originally written in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye, a housewife, for her friend who was mourning for her departed mother. The verses were translated and made into the very popular song titled “As a Thousand Winds,” sung by the Japanese tenor, Masahumi Akikawa. Here they are, exuding Kazuko’s radiant image:
As a Thousand Winds
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there;
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die
Yes, Kazuko did not die. She is still vividly with us.