Recently for memorial services I have been sharing the classic song, “I’ll be seeing you.” I play a Tony Bennett version of the song and pass out the lyrics to the song. It is a most beautiful, classic song, composed by Sammy Fain with lyrics by Irving Kahal. The lyrics are as follows:
“I’ll be seeing you”
I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through
In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees, the wishing well
I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you.
Before when I listened to this song, I thought it was a romantic love song about someone whose lover had moved away. Although their lover is not there, they continue to see them “in all the old familiar places.”
However, the more I listen to this song, I think that it was composed by someone who lost their loved one, whose dear loved one had died. If we listen to this song with that perspective, then to me it has even more depth and beauty.
It is so true that we continue to see our loved ones in all the old familiar places, even after they are gone. My dad passed away about a year and a half ago, but I still see my dad, sitting in his favorite chair in front of the tv, or sitting at the dinner table, or even seeing him driving a tractor on the farm. Of course I don’t “literally” see him, but in my mind his image is so clear, so vivid.
The other day I was thinking about my grandfather, who died when I was about a freshman in high school, some fifty plus years ago. My grandfather was a unique Issei (first generation) man. When he immigrated to this country as a teenager, somewhere in his youth he worked in a bakery and learned how to bake bread and rolls. To this day, the most delicious homemade bread I have ever tasted in my life is my grandfather’s, hands down. He made the most delicious bread, dinner rolls, and even donuts. Growing up on the farm in Oregon, my grandparents lived in one house on our farm, we lived in another house, and my uncle’s family lived in a third home on the farm.
Every once in a while, my grandpa would make a big batch of homemade bread, rolls, and donuts, and he would bring them over to our house. Of course we never locked the doors or even knocked before entering on the farm, and my grandfather would come into our garage first, then into our kitchen from our back door. Even before he got into the house, I could smell the wonderful aroma of his homemade bread and I would run to the kitchen door. Through the kitchen window, my grandpa would be holding this big tray of bread and rolls for us to enjoy. I can still see his smiling face so vividly, so clearly. Even fifty plus years later, I can see my grandfather’s face in my heart and mind so clearly.
The last verse of this beautiful song that goes,
“I’ll be looking at the moon,
but I’ll be seeing you,”
If I take this verse from a Buddhist perspective, I would say that the moon is a metaphor for the light of the Buddha, the light of the Dharma, the light of Namuamidabutsu. When we encounter, when we touch this light of the Buddha, we truly see our loved ones. We see even more than our loved ones. We see all of humanity. We see the world of oneness. We see the world of truth. It is in that light of the Dharma, that we truly see our loved ones, in the past, in the present, and even in the future.
For those of you who have lost a loved one, I am sure that you continue to see your loved ones “in all the old familiar places.” As you see your loved one in all the old familiar places, perhaps you will also come to see the light of the Buddha that illuminates your heart and mind, that opens up your heart and mind to the world of truth, the world of Namuamidabutsu. When we see our loved ones in such a manner, may the Nembutsu softly emerge from within us, and instead of sadness and loneliness, we feel warmth, light, and a feeling of oneness.
Rev. Marvin Harada