To part is to die a little to die to what we love .*
Edmond Haracourt (1856-1941)
The first time I heard the phrase by the French, “to part is to die a little,” was in Finland a long time ago during one of those unforgettable summers, when I used to visit my grandparents in Eastern Finland. It was my father who, notably saddened by the challenge of another farewell, surprised us with those words.
Haracourt’s poem made me think a little longer on that day about the sometimes difficult ritual of saying goodbye. I have carried those words with me throughout my life and use them as consolation whenever there is a difficult parting.
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Certainly when we say goodbye something dies inside of us. But as Haracourt points out, there is a consolation, albeit one of sadness, since everywhere and always one leaves behind a part of oneself after parting.
What happens when we say goodbye? Does loneliness and longing set in? Isn’t it cruel to long for something that time will never return after it turns a special moment into history?
While Haracourt’s words come to mind at this moment when I write these words about New World Finn’s last issue, I am honored that I had the opportunity to be part of this family from around 2000. I call it a family because I always was treated like a member of a community. New World Finn was a good home for my columns.
After December, there will only be only three Finnish American newspapers in the United States: Amerikan Uutiset of Lake Worth, Florida, and Finnish-American Reporter of Hancock, Michigan. The Swedish-language Norden, founded in 1896, will continue to be published thanks to cooperation with Est Elle, a Vaasa-based Finnish-Swedish publication.
In Canada, there is today only one big Finnish-language newspaper, Toronto-based Kanadan Sanomat. Vapaa Sana of Toronto, which was founded in 1931, merged with Kanadan Sanomat in 2012.
What will happen after the printing presses of New World Finn stop rolling and become silent? Will the voice of our Finnish American community get fainter? What topics will continue to unite us and strengthen our sense of community in the future? One of these, I am certain, must be our sense of community with all of its defects and its beauty, all its successes and its failures.
Certainly one of the important roles that many Finnish American publications like New World Finn played was to give our diverse community a voice, and bolster a sense identity in order to make sense and help us face a brave and diverse world in a faraway land, even if our families have lived in the Americas for a few generations.
Edward Said, a Palestinian who published in the 1970s a fascinating book called Orientalism, which is about “Otherness,” cites Italian Marxist theoretician Antonio Gramsci. The Sardinian social thinker, who died in Mussolini’s prisons, wrote about “traces of us” deposited in our family history, traditions, collective experiences, individual experiences, relations between one individual and another. Even if there is no inventory of history in these traces that he speaks of, they are there for us to find and to connect the dots.
Said continued: “It’s the most interesting human task, it is the task of interpretation, it is the task of giving history some fable sense; not to show that my history is better than yours, or that it’s worse, [that] I’m a victim and you’re the aggressor, but rather to understand my history in terms of other people’s history.”
Probably one of the greatest gifts that New World Finn gave us during these fifteen years was help us connect and understand those traces so that we could better comprehend our history in terms of others.
Many played an important role in the publication’s existence. Some that I personally want to thank are Gerry Henkel, the present editor, former editor Lynn Laitala, Niilo Koponen, Oren Tikkanen, and especially publishers Leo and Ivy Nevala. Special mention goes to many of our readers, who supported us for so many years.
Another Finnish American newspaper now retires to the sidelines and forms part of the proud resting place of other publications that once served their readers and communities.
Thank you and bye for now.