My sister, Melissa, has been on a mission to clean out our childhood home. During the course of unearthing some truly terrible pottery by yours truly, she came across a variety of artifacts as well as some notes written by our mom.
We lost our mom to cancer eight years ago. She entered Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, and about a week later, she died.
It was just like our mom to be selfless, and not trouble us to care for her over the course of a long, drawn-out illness. I think we all expected her to get well. She had celebrated her 88th birthday that year — a special year in Japanese culture. My brother Dave, and his wife Carol, treated everyone to a limousine and dinner at Canlis for a very special celebration. It was truly amazing.
Quite a few years earlier, I had an idea of asking my mom to write a family history. After looking at a number of books on the subject, which made the process look daunting, I found a format (it was the dot-matrix days) printed it out and gave it to her, hoping she would answer the questions, but to my knowledge, she never did.
Original dot-matrix document
Having moved to Seattle from Colorado where she and my were dad married, and since we lived far from her parents and siblings and our cousins, we didn’t know very much about her side of the family.
She didn’t talk very much about her life when she was growing up. So there were huge gaps in our understanding. Finding the notes so many years after her death is like having a conversation and finding out answers to questions we thought would never be answered. Her notes were filled with wonderful vignettes of her days growing up, and also some sad things we didn't know about. But mostly it was so amazing to have a chance to hear from her, so unexpectedly.
I wish I could thank her for this gift and to say thanks for her many sacrifices. After our parents divorced, she raised my sister, brother and me at a time when being a divorced Japanese woman was almost unheard of. Yet she endured and met all the challenges presented to her and lived a strong, ethical and inspiring life. She provided us with an amazing example to follow.
This post is in honor of our mom’s 97th birthday, with thanks to Melissa for finding the treasures.