As our days in Ishinomaki progress and our relationships deeper, we are given more opportunities to share in the joys of healing as well as the continued challenging conditions for many here.
This morning, we went to the San Juan Baptista park for our worship service and a picnic lunch and games afterwards. I have written previously about the San Juan ship replica that is in Ishinomaki and its historical significance. The park built next to it is wonderful! It was fun to watch everyone enter into the events of the day.
About fifteen friends/children from our community came. One of the men, Mr. S., is teaching Eric and Owen aikido now every Friday night. As we were walking up the hill together, he said that he used to come here all the time. On his way out a few hours later, he told Eric that he hadn’t been able to come here since the tsunami (I am not sure why- perhaps because it overlooks the ocean?) I think today was a time of healing and moving forward for him.
We were so happy that one of our grandmother friends, R. came too! She has come to our home for dinner and to a previous picnic we had had at the park. Her family lives across the street from the ocean; on the day of the tsunami, her daughter-in-law drove home from work with a co-worker. Even though her co-worker lived out of the way, she dropped her off first, and then tried to make it back to their home. She was swept away just two blocks away from their home. Her husband and four-year old son stayed up on the roof through the freezing night until the water subsided enough. Her body was found a week later.
Now, R. is basically raising her five-year old grandson, providing for her widowed son who is just working part-time as an oyster farmer, taking care of her 92 year old mother, and also caring for the families of her other two children who live nearby. Both of her daughters are single moms. She is an amazing lady. At the picnic today, she pulled out a sketch pad and showed us some water-color postcards she had done the night before (her grandson last night stayed over at his other grandparents’ temporary housing and so she had a little free time!). We were amazed at her talent.
And then she shared with us that most of her artwork had been washed away in the tsunami; she has not been able to touch any kind of art after that – until last night. We all oohed, and aahed, and cheered for her. It is wonderful to see small and big steps of our friends finding places of healing. (And I asked her to make postcards that we could buy and give as gifts!)
Tonight, her neighbor and our good friend Yu. stopped by with her family on their way home from a day outing in Yamagata. We were excited to give her son two plastic boxes of Legos that the D. family in Tokyo had donated — and he was thrilled! It was also her birthday today, and we had prepared a little cake for her.
She was surprised and so happy. We all did kampei! – toasted over coffee and cake… and I thanked her for being my first friend in Ishinomaki, and such a special one at that! She shared that she never imagined this year would hold such special things. They had been visiting some good friends this afternoon, and she said her parents were able to invite these friends to come and stay in their Ishinomaki home now since our volunteer teams had mudded out their home and redone the floors over the past few weeks. Another reason to cheer. Thankful today for steps of healing, grace, and friendship.