30219 Days - Father
My father was laid to rest on the eve of the first Tomb-sweeping Day after he passed away. The black tombstone was engraved with his name, his dates of birth and death with a dash in between, and the names of his family.
As I stared into that simple dash, I couldn't help but wonder—how many days did my father live in this world? How many days can a person live in this world? Can the simplest punctuation mark encapsulate an entire life? These are simple and trivial questions, but no one can answer them. Most people don’t care much about how many days they might live. Those who are alive don't have much time to think about that, as they are still living and shall live on. Those who have passed away have left, and no one worries about them in these terms.
My father lived in this world for 30,219 days. Yes, I got this trivial answer through an awkward calculation. Because I care about it a great deal! Every day my father lived is not only important to him; it is just as important to me. Maybe my father didn’t think so.
I didn’t want my father's uneventful life to be summed up in that engraving of his dates of birth and death with a quick dash in between, just like anybody else who had passed away. I also knew that even those two meaningful dates would fade from people's memory in time. I wanted to erase the punctuation mark from my father’s tombstone, to restore every single day of his life. Guided by this idea, I began my extended hand writing work.
Time and again, I hand wrote the dates consisting of just eight figures on the photographs of my father’s body and personal belongings. It was a laboured process through the days and nights. Through the devouring of my time, I reconstructed the time my father had lived to fulfill my imagination, and to complete the writing of his life.
Over and over, this process of hand writing brought me back to every day of my father’s life. It completed my imagination and memory of the world my father had lived in. My memory of him emerged from the blur and turned clear; it unfolded until it reached the last day of his life, which felt as vivid as what had happened the day before.
As I see it, my father lived a plain life. In society he was a nobody, whose departure was just as ordinary as that of any ordinary person. It was so ordinary that it could be quickly forgotten. I've been fighting this oblivion in my own way, this gradual blurring of my memory of and feeling for my father through the passage of time.