One day, I unintentionally spoiled a box of fruits and vegetables that my mother had sent from my hometown, without even taking them out of the box. I stared down at the veggies lying in the box, which had now became their coffin. The sight pained me, but at the same time, it reminded me of my late grandmother’s pet phrase, “all things must pass.”
Once their time in this world has passed, all life loses forms. That’s nature. While recognizing that providence, I also yearned to capture the remnants of love that my mother must have sent along with those items. The veggies value as foodstuffs may be lost, but a piece of my mother’s heart must linger still. Before even that vanished, I wanted to embalm those rotten foods for a proper send off.
I chose Hanafuda as a motif for the last rites.
Hanafuda, or flower cards, is a traditional Japanese card game consisting of a deck of 48 cards, which are divided into 12 suits of 4 cards each. Each suit represents a month of the year with a flower or a plant of that month. In most suits, two of the cards show a plain version of the flower or the plant, while one of them in most suits depicts a tanzaku, or a poetry ribbon, along with the flower. The top card features the flower along with an animal, a bird, or the moon.
The combination of the cards such as “a drink over cherry blossom” expresses some of the Japanese heritage of enjoying ephemeral beauty particular to that month or the season.
The grandmother who taught me the concept of impermanence also taught me how to play the game of Hanafuda.
The seasonal foodstuffs from my mother will depart, dressed in motifs from Hanafuda I played with my late grandmother. I remain in this world to capture the moment when my mother’s love transforms from “a matter of love” to “a record of love.”