On the anniversary of the death of Lindt Café manager Tori Johnson in the Martin Place siege, Tori’s father Ken has reflected on his son’s bravery and his own journey of remembrance, which included erecting a Japanese gate in his memory at Crystal Castle.
It is the same place where Mr Johnson, who is a Byron shire resident, held a memorial service for his son in January, attended by around 100 family members and local friends.
Mr Johnson said that while the victims’ families sought to erect ‘a suitable, profound and simple’ memorial in Martin Place, he also wished to create ‘a personal memorial, in a tranquil environment, to refer to’.
‘Tori was born five years after I had visited a Torii gate in a lake in Japan. When my son arrived I thought of this Torii gate and suggested the name that meant the space between the physical and the spiritual. And so Tori received his name,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘With this in mind I set about wanting to erect a Torii gate with a stone cairn as a permanent memorial to honour him.
‘The serene lake in the Shambhala Gardens, where Tori’s north coast memorial ceremony was held in January, resonated with me for many reasons as a place to erect this Torii gate to honour his given name.
‘In a moment of serendipity, just one of many that I have encountered this year, a large wooden Torii gate was found on its side on a property near Byron.
‘The gate was generously donated and, with the generous support and expertise of family and friends, was reconstructed. With the love and support of the guardians of the Shambhala Gardens, the Torii gate was erected in its permanent home.’
On the eve of the first year of Tori’s passing, Mr Johnson placed plaque in front of the Torii gate and stone cairn memorial, which now rests in a beautiful, permanent, contemplative lake setting at Crystal Castle.
The plaque reads in part, ‘Tori’s act of valour will never be forgotten, his selfless act of love to his fellow human beings, remains a symbol of peace and love to all humanity. This Torii gate, erected to mark the first anniversary of his passing, is a tribute to Tori and the countless many that love him. It remains a symbol of peace and love to the world.’
In the year since Tori’s extraordinary act of sacrifice, his father has travelled to many parts of the world that his son had visited and built small stone cairns in his honour.
‘To give me strength in the months following Tori’s death, I focused on aspects of my son’s beauty and his passions, returning again and again to the selfless act of love he showed that night.
‘Tori deserved that I be proactive, not reactive, as I grappled with my total disbelief at what had transpired.
‘Tori had a beautiful creative spirit; he loved to go barefoot inside and outside, even at the age of 34; he loved to create stone cairns.
‘So, with this in mind, this year I decided to travel to various places in the world that my son loved and we enjoyed together, to create ceremonies by building the small cairn memorials that he so loved. Family and friends both here and abroad have been a great source of support in doing this.
‘As the year progressed I travelled to Japan, Spain, Sweden, Italy and Canada, meeting with family and friends who supported me, to create small stone cairns to honour Tori.
‘An important ceremony for me was on a small island south of Stockholm, Tori’s paternal ancestral home. The ceremony was centred around building a small stone cairn and floating a miniature long-boat. My son’s ashes were placed in the hull and set alight.
‘It was some comfort for me to link Tori with his ancestors with a ceremony in these waters,’ Mr Johnson said.