Funny how things come to consciousness slowly over time until, in a flash of light, what should have been obvious all along comes clearly into view.
Learning that “Memorial Day and the Soldier’s Helmet” would not air as expected on Minnesota Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” because of its length, I went back to read it and hear it again over morning coffee.
Hearing the ending again –“three men in a living room — two Americans and on dead Japanese….” — I realized there were more than three. There were five.
Without the influence of the missing two, “Memorial Day and the Soldier’s Helmet” would not have been written. It was as though the pen I had thought was in my hand had been in theirs. They had written the piece.
Who were the missing two?
My American father, the former World War II Army Air Force Chaplain on Saipan, and Kosuke Koyama, the teenage Japanese survivor of the American firebombing of Tokyo.
A father casts a long shadow over a son’s life.
Except for a poem he had written on Saipan about the flames of war lighting the night skies of the South Pacific, Dad didn’t talk about the war. During his 18 years as pastor of the Marple Presbyterian Church in Broomall, Pennsylvania, Korean and Japanese students from Princeton Theological Seminary were frequent weekend guests in our home.
Kosuke Koyama, who had been a student at Princeton Seminary during my teenage years, came into my life decades later in 1996 when he moved to Minneapolis following his retirement as John D. Rockefeller, Jr Professor of World Christianity at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York.
Might Ko have been a guest in our home way back when?
That my father and Ko might have known each other is a happy thought.
But, whether they occupied the same physical space is not as important as the large space they opened in the inheritor of their influence. Two invisible men in a living room brought the other three together in the bonds of sacred silence and the hope of something better for us all.
Funny thing! If the recording had aired yesterday on “All Things Considered”, I might still be in the dark!
- Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, in honor of Kenneth Campbell Stewart and Kosuke Koyama, May 30, 2017.