On Wednesday afternoon, I received a text message from my sister, "Do you want to write dad's obituary?" I didn't understand. It made no sense. Why would I do such a thing since he was healing from the serious congestion that had taken hold in his heart and lungs the past year? He had called me in May of this year to say that his doctors wanted to operate on his heart within the next week. After a long pause, he said he felt that surgery, radiation and drugs would end his life with pain and that perhaps something more holistic would be beneficial. There was a bit of uncertainty in his voice so I said whatever he decided I supported completely.
|Always seeking to capture truth|
My father, an engineer, conservative life-long Republican, sports fan and believer in the merits of most western-based medicines, never could figure out my odd spiritual ways and holistic wellness beliefs. However, during the past few years I noticed a slow shift begin to take hold in his beliefs, or an evolvement if you will. He would share that his Republicans were just as dirty as the hated Democrats, agreed that the banks were a terrible place to keep your money and maybe there is something to all this holistic stuff. It was as if seeds were being planted ahead of time for something our family was to face in the future.
He asked if I would accompany he and my mom to see the nutritionist that helped me fully recover from my incurable kidney ailment a few years back. He reasoned that since this nutritionist had also assisted my mom in healing from her radiation disease resulting from the Hiroshima atomic bomb, it seemed like a reasonable decision to make. I agreed. He walked into her office full of anxiety, with a bit of a surrendered slouch, but walked out ninety minutes later with clarity in his eyes and a confidence in stride. On the drive home, he excitedly shared that this was the right approach for him and that there was something even more profound than a physical healing that was opening up in him.
|The Hayashi haka where his ashes will be spread|
From that day onward, his understanding of himself shifted dramatically. No longer did he want to focus his attention on the day to day stresses of life's illusions that had made him incredibly sad and angry for so long. Instead, he wanted to speak about how to find truth and love in his heart before it was too late. Over the next few months, all of our conversations centered on this topic and our relationship began to completely move towards truthful sharing of thoughts and feelings for each other.
To be honest, in my youth we had fairly strained relations as neither of us was capable of opening up to one another. Most conflicts were resolved with fists, breaking things or out of control shouting matches which proved to be frustrating and created an uncertain divide for many years. Yet, who was this new man that now wanted advice to help him breathe strongly into his heart so it would fill his soul with love that he could then share with others? I offered a few simple breathing meditations and he would ask afterwards "how much love do you feel is in my heart now, son?" "Wow, a lot, Dad. I am so proud of you. Your heart is healing! I love you." "I love you too, son."
|Father and son|
He would realize that much of what caused tremendous hardship for our family was due to his own tragic relationship with his deceased mother. He now desired so much to release the anger and sadness he felt towards her for all the terrible things that had occurred to both he and our family while she was living. To reconcile this terrible past would not only begin to heal his heart, but his family's as well, something none of us realized at the time.
Though he was coming into greater understanding of who he really is through the opening that was occurring in his being, his physical body began to suddenly falter a few weeks ago. After a particularly frightening episode last week where he awoke unable to breathe and was rushed to the hospital, he returned later that day with a serenity that transcended the fear of passing.
He shared with me how incredibly grateful he was to have all of this love directed at him and that it was overwhelming to have his family rally around during his most trying days. He repeated over and over just how lucky he was to experience this before it was too late and that our whole family could heal together. All it took was to let go of the past, accept love for each other back into our hearts and not to take that for granted. It was precious.
|Returning to the forests of his youth|
On the early afternoon of Wednesday, August 29th, 2012, my father asked to see all of his family. My brother in law called to say it didn't look like dad had much time left and that I should drive down to San Diego to see him as soon as I could. Before leaving, I sat and performed a distant healing for my father, doing what I could to again send as much life energy into his heart and lungs as I possibly could.
|Always found time for amusement|
Forty minutes later, my brother in law called back to say my father had just passed peacefully in his sleep. I knew his body was weakening as he had lost weight due to his inability to eat much food and when I spoke with him two days earlier, his voice trailed off with fits and coughs, but I held out hope that he would conquer this challenge. He had to. We had much to catch up on and share with each other, decades worth with new adventures to take together. There was so much more I wanted him to show me. It couldn't be his time. Not now! But sadly it was.
With the searing pain of loss and sadness in my heart, I drove to my sister's home in downtown San Diego where my dad was being cared for. My sister, with whom I regret to say and I were estranged and had not spoken in years, greeted me with a loving hug and invited me in. I also hugged my mom and we all went into the guestroom to see my father.
|Kaz's journey continues here|
My mother remarked how peaceful he now looked compared to the morning when he was struggling mightily. Despite the pain and fatigue, he had insisted on going to the bathroom on his own earlier. He wanted his dignity intact and didn't want us to worry about just how much pain he was really in. Yes, that was the samurai in him! Mission accomplished, Dad. She said everyone was surprised by his sudden strength and that they thought he was getting better, especially because he was joking with everyone and in such good spirits a few hours earlier. After a while, he closed his eyes to sleep and drifted off one last time.
As I sat next to him, my heart ached with the realization that I did not get there in time to tell him face to face how much I loved him, to thank him for everything we learned together in life and that I finally understood the meaning of all the challenges we shared. Yet, I knew it wasn't too late so I told him then and he heard me. I know he did and in that moment, we were released from the wall of pain that previously stood between us.
|The forest reclaims an old friend|
My sister put her arms around me and we cried, the years of strain between us lifting with each stream of tears. This was the true meaning of my father's journey at this late stage in this life; to heal his heart so we could start the process of healing ours. He was now free and so were we. It is never too late. Thank you, Dad. You will be missed by so many whose lives you touched so deeply before your departure. Remain in truth.
June 14, 1937 - August 29, 2012
My father showing me his family plot in Yamaguchi
where a portion of his ashes will be buried.
where a portion of his ashes will be buried.
Kazuo proudly shows off his bamboo forest in Yamaguchi.