The day after Easter


Graveyard, Bridgewater, Connecticut © Steven Willard

On the day after Easter I found myself thinking of resurrection, not The Resurrection with a capital R, but the concept most of us contemplate as life after death.

Some thirty years ago, while living in Atlanta, I went to a lecture by the well known woodworker, sculptor, columnist and educator, Toshio Odate. I was expecting to learn some useful tips about the craft of woodworking, but Toshio didn’t want to talk about that. Instead he wanted to talk about life after death. If I get the details wrong, I’ll at least try to get the story straight.

It starts with the fact that Toshio had immigrated to the United States from Japan. The rest of his family was still there and in those days the conventional way to stay in touch was by mail which usually took several days. One day he received a letter that informed him that his father had died a week earlier. He thought about that and realized that for that week his father had lived after death because, in those intervening days, to Toshio he was still living.

This experience later moved Toshio to undertake a project to ensure that he would live after death when that time came. Here’s what he did. He put together a number of portfolios of his artwork and sent them to museums and galleries around the world. He reasoned that until notice of his death reached them they would continue to treat him as a living artist, and in the interval he would live after death.

I remember being a bit disappointed that I didn’t learn any tips about how to make shoji screens that day, but I have often thought about his story. It was four or five years after meeting Toshio in Atlanta when Chris and I landed up in Woodbury, Connecticut and I learned that he lived just down the street from my own shop. It’s a small world.

Olympus OMD EM5 with 20mm f1.7 lens.


2 comments on “The day after Easter

  1. Pat says:

    Great story. I seem to go even further than Toshio as I believe that we live on in the memories of those who we have impacted.


    • I’m not sure how serious Toshio was, or how far he thought about taking his philosophy. I tend to think more like you by believing that people live on after death as long as people remember them. Perhaps photography is one way we can help that along, though I don’t catch myself thinking about it very often.

      Thanks for your visit and comments.


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