My keyboard has been spared the punishment of the crack of my birchen rod fingers as my writing has fallen asleep in the pew over the last few months. It has been difficult to serve at the shrine of words as I have been filled with so much anger, hurt, and disillusionment. The only words offered on the altar have been negative, vile, and vulgar. It’s not that I believe negative, vile, and vulgar to be all bad – it is therapeutic to process all that waste water into potable water – but nobody wants to read a four-letter rant everyday! I drank some fresh spring water today – and once again, it came in the form of hope amongst grief – it came at a funeral.
Last Saturday, Kannon Isham Manis, Stone’s martial arts coach, lost his battle with depression. Stone and I attended his memorial service on this windy and unseasonably warm afternoon. On the way to the memorial service, I quickly went through the typical order of a funeral service with Stone. He has never been to a funeral that he has been fully cognizant for as well as emotional vested in the person that has passed away. He had few questions, but I could see the anxiety building.
We arrived and took our seats. The church filled quickly to its capacity. So many lives were touched by Kannon – or Coach Monkey as all of his students knew him. Kannon had many students present, young and old. His father spoke of the name Kannon and how it had Japanese roots. I looked up the kanji characters when I came home and found 観音. These two characters mean “watchful listening”. Frequently, the name is translated as one who constantly surveys the world listening for the sounds of suffering. This was the Kannon I knew and the one spoke about today.
However, Kannon’s brother, Koal, spoke of the disease that took his brother’s life. As he did, no eye was dry. Koal spoke of depression as an enigma of highs and lows without logic. He spoke of battles, wars, roller coasters, and victims. It was rough to hear knowing I never knew or paid enough attention to see that Kannon. I only witnessed a skilled martial arts teacher who knew both crafts well. I knew the caring and passionate young man that would call me sir despite countless times of asking him to call me Lj. I saw the beast that came out when he was on the mat. I saw the gentleman and prince of Pride Martial Arts greet, rebuke, correct, and love kids of all ages. I saw the jokester that had fun between classes with fellow instructors. I saw the genuine concern when a student was not performing as usual. I saw one who constantly surveys the world listening for the sounds of suffering! Little did I know that those big ears Coach Epps spoke of today, only pointed out. Inwardly, Kannon had times of intense lows. He was an enigma. He was both beautiful and ugly. He was a beautiful war – the same description given to my good friend John Ross. And the war is over. The banners are laid down, the crown is won, and Kannon is now at peace with a new life. May we love more, pay attention more, and listen more! May we all know Kannon was indeed one who constantly surveys the world listening for the sounds of suffering and he no longer hears his own!