There have been so many stories on my heart and mind; I realized by sharing them here with you my (reader) friends I am able to somehow process better what I am hearing, as well as helping to not forgot the experiences of many a year ago. But we have been really busy with guests, volunteers, and events and the stories that I am hearing daily have been accumulating on my heart. I will try and write some of them out in the days to come — these stories honor the bravery of many and allow us to in a small way understand the pain that is bulging this whole region.
For now, I will just share about two rituals from the past two days. Yesterday, I went to my first funeral in Ishinomaki. It was for Mrs. A., who was killed in the tsunami. Eric and a number of teams helped clean out Mr. A’s mechanics garage and then their home upstairs; I have had the privilege of getting to know he and and his 21 year old daughter since we moved here. On Saturday, we went to see the cherry blossoms together; then on Monday we dressed in formal black clothes and went to remember.
Mrs. A. was the vice president of a bank in Onagawa (see previous entries and the video depicting the hugeness of the tsunami there). It is likely that when the tsunami warning came, they all went to the roof on the four floor to wait it out. It was not expected to be very high, so they all thought they were safe. In reality, none of them were. The tsunami rose three times higher here than most places, soaring to close to one hundred feet. It slammed apartment buildings onto their sides. Half of the town perished that day.
They never found Mr. A’s wife’s body, so he continued to put off having the funeral. But he told me last Saturday that it is finally time; he wanted to do it while the cherry blossoms were in bloom. The tree in front of the Buddhist temple where the ceremony was held was absolutely magnificent.
I was so moved by the sharing; two of Mrs. A’s close friends went up to the photo of her at the altar and read letters to her, sharing their memories, their regrets, their pain. One of the friends said, “Now that spring is here with the cherry blossoms I can only feel sadness because you are not here; I wonder if it will always be so?”
At the end of the very long Buddhist ceremony, in which we were all sitting in proper Japanese style on our knees (Eric said he had to sing hymns over and over in his mind to keep from dying!), we had a chance to greet Mr. A. and his daughter T. I hugged her, and just told her she is not alone — that we will walk with her through this. Her loss is so huge.
Tonight, we celebrated the sixty-first birthday of a dear member of our community, Mr. T. He is one of the community leaders of the series of apartment buildings where Be One has done a great deal of its outreach; he continues to help through his influence and his many contacts. His wife has had a serious illness, and he has had a great deal of pressures on him. It was so much fun for our Be One team to come together after dinner and give him a cake, presents, words of affirmation. He said it was the best birthday of his life.
When we were driving back from yesterday’s funeral with him, I asked him how many funerals he has attended since last year’ s tsunami. His answer blew me away – over thirty. Can you even imagine? Thankful for days of remembering, thankful for days of celebrating.