When I found out that my sister-in-law was in critical condition late February I thought of cancelling my trip to Japan this month. When she died two weeks ago, I was no longer thinking of our holiday. My heart and thoughts was with my brother who was dealing with the situation all by himself.
Recently retired from the US military, my brother and his kind Japanese wife intended to spend the rest of their lives in sunny Florida. It was her choice (she loves the “Sunshine State”) as do most American retirees; they both love the coast, the sea and watching sunrise during their early morning walks with their two dogs.
When they found out about the cancer, they bravely fought it together. Far from family and friends they kept it to themselves. My brother, the ever optimist, believed there’s hope up to the last moments of his wife’s life. I was shocked to find out that his wife was already in critical condition when March came. We talk in Skype all the time and he never, not once, brought up what his wife is going through.
I spoke with Miki about our planned trip to Japan in January. She sounded really excited. I felt it in her voice. I had no idea that at that time she was so weak that speaking was already a struggle. Late February she slipped into a coma.
I told her we love Japanese food. I was waiting for her to make recommendations; sushi places, tempura stalls, things like that. She recommended Japanese cheesecake and rice cakes—these, according to her are “not so sweet and very soft.” She mentioned no other food but these.
So we went around Osaka and Kyoto savoring assortments of rice cakes. My favorite are these purple mochi wrapped in cherry leaves. It looks so good that I had second thoughts eating it.
I regret that I failed to visit them last year while I was in Chicago. I don’t understand why this tragedy happened to such kind and loving people—Miki’s so generous that she’s always on a look out for people and organization to help—even dogs to rescue. As Catholic, I was taught to deal with such a terrible lost by reflecting on the suffering of Christ and the Virgin Mary. But still I struggle to find answers, and maybe there’s none. She was taken from us too soon.
Yesterday, in Kyoto, near the Tō-ji temple, I said my prayers and wishes for Miki. I felt peace and was consoled that I reached her native land—The trip was our humble homage to her. We were thinking of her the whole time…