Rice is the elixir of life
in times of great strife
with nothing to eat, they always had this
as their last and final wish
God was pleased
and up to their knees
water filled their fields
to provide their next meals
this is what happens when you give all you’ve got
God will make sure you are filled to great stock
On days like this, grandpa always wants me to play the gayageum. He believes the heavens will pour out rain in the offering of a song or two. For the past two weeks, the sky has teased our eyes with dark clouds, but so far, nothing! We’ve many misfortunes. My parents died in a car accident five years ago. The doctor said father had a severe heart attack behind the wheel. Mom must have been asleep when the car slammed into a telephone pole. According to the paramedics, when they pulled mom from the crushed car, she looked peaceful, she left here with a smile on her face. This fact at least gave me some peace my mother died painlessly. Not long after, grandma died. She grieved herself to death. Now it’s just grandpa and I.
I have a part-time job and I also go to school. I don’t earn much but it helps to keep rice in the house. Grandpa keeps the grains in a large burnt red earthenware pot, stored in the corner between the counter and refrigerator. I remember listening to grandpa telling stories about the war, most days all there was to eat was rice. He recalled planting is fellow comrades’ bodies in the earth like precious grains of rice. He did it with such care as if the battlefield were a traditional ceremony you’d find in civilian life. Soldiers were trained to show high regard for the living as well as the dead. It was the highest honor a comrade could show his brother.
It is now the next morning. The sky is still gray, yet there is the faint smell of salty rain enveloping my senses. I retrieved the gayageum that I placed just inside of the front door and repositioned myself at the foot of the porch. In the distance, I can see our rice paddies waiting patiently to be nourished with the spring that flows from Gods eyes. I play the song grandpa swears by that will unlock God’s heart. It’s a song of thankfulness even when the land is dry an unyielding. Hardship is the catalyst that helps us be and remain grateful for what we do have.
Before the heavens rained down life, tears flowed from mine. Not because I’m sad but because I get to start anew each day. All traces of pain are washed away as I gaze up at the sky. Tears hit the strings and a new sound emerged. The sound of purity brought the first pitter-pats of rain and it brought grandpa from is room onto the porch, smiling down at me in approval. We made the rain come at the pluck of God’s heart and now our harvest with be great. Grandpa was right, the song did open the heart of the heavens. We believed, praised and worshiped with all of our heart and it gave us life in return.