October 10, 2012

Dear Yoko: A Humble Request on John’s Birthday.

Dear Yoko,

I hope my letter finds you well on this joyous double birthday of John and Sean. As I write this, it is still October 9th in Chicago, so I would like to squeeze in a birthday greeting that I hope you will convey to Sean—and also to the spirit of John.

Unfortunately, I am writing to you with a heavy heart.

My dear friend’s husband passed away last month unexpectedly at the age of 39. He was a vibrant and kind man. I have been on the front lines with her since that horrible night at the emergency room and just about every day since then. She and their three-year-old daughter are still in shock and living with unbelievable grief. They lost a husband and a daddy. The rest of us lost a brother, son, and friend. This tragic event within my immediate circle is a strange coincidence, I admit, but it is not my ultimate reason for writing this letter to you, believe it or not.

Buddha was right. Life is suffering. Horrible things befall us all the time. There is no way to prepare for life’s shocking events. You, Sean, Julian, and the rest of the family know intimately about this type of loss. But as I said, the reason I am writing is altogether different than simply comparing wounds.

The above photo is me with a poster I purchased from the Imagine Peace Exhibit in Montreal, Canada, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2009. The exhibit happened to coincide with a visit another friend and I made there in June of that year.

The timing was pure good fortune.

Yoko, I would like thank you for making it possible for us to experience this powerful and moving exhibit.

If I may be so bold, I would also like to make a humble request.

Please consider sharing the Imagine Peace exhibit—exactly as I saw it in Montreal in June 2009—across the country and around the world. More people deserve to experience this exhibit. It seems terribly unfair that they are not able to. 

The Imagine Peace exhibit was unique, interactive, thought provoking, poignant, and absolutely inspiring. The people of the world should be able to walk through the magical maze of spaces engendered by the vision of peace that you and John shared. 

Some say harsh words about John, but I am not one of them. I know he was a flawed man, as I am a flawed woman. Human flaws don’t take away from the vision of peace we three share. They certainly don’t take away from the power of the Imagine Peace Exhibit which has left a lasting and profound impression upon both me and my friend who was with me.

I was eight years old when John died.

I specifically remember the reaction of a portly girl in my Northwest Indiana Montessori classroom. She was wearing a John Lennon t-shirt and hugging herself in it, thereby hugging John. She cried, “My baby’s dead, My baby’s dead.” I just looked at her, curiously. It would take several more years before I understood the full impact of what that meant.

Now, when I think of my friend who has lost her partner of nine years and their young daughter who has lost her father, I think of you and Sean. I look at that iconic photo of you and John from the exhibit, and it gives me hope that my friend can soldier on—just as you have soldiered on.

Yoko, I appreciate all the work that you do in the name of peace.

Thank you for being a personal inspiration to me – and a beacon for my friend and her daughter during this dark time in their lives.

I hope that you will consider my humble request.


V.S. Pillay



If you are agreeable to this plan, please let the exhibit come to Chicago first!


If you happen to read the series of articles I wrote on bluefin tuna, please don’t be mad. I come out strongly against the practice of eating this fish and the aspect of Japanese culture that propagates this practice. Please know that I have the highest regard for many other aspects of Japanese culture. With that said, maybe you don’t give a shit, but in case you do, I would like to cover my ass.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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