This is a dual purpose posting, multiple topics maybe, but its simply how things interconnect and how the mind goes. The song is “The Bells say Goodbye” by Hako Yamasaki. Play it along as you read, if you will. Its one I’ve been playing a lot since March 2020. https://youtu.be/hboXXVfj24M?t=1137
On Sunday, March 6, 2022, I asked my mother to please seek news on our dear friend, Eiko. The next day Monday, quite suddenly I experienced extreme unusual fatigue mentally and physically. I went to bed early and awoke in the bed aching in each joint of my body, but especially back of shoulders and hips.
I was too weak to even arise to seek painkillers or call out. I couldn’t do anything but feel that way, and eventually I blacked out. When I awoke, I was completely fine. I flexed my fingers perplexed, but they and the rest of my body felt normal. Later that evening, their morning, my mother called to say she’d just received word that Eiko had passed away in the night.
I believe I had been experiencing an increased connection as she passed over. That as the mind begins its final change to move out, it remembers, it seeks out, it touches. I believe what I was feeling was what she was feeling (in bed, unable to move, pressure points), and maybe that’s all she could give to let me know it was her or it was simply her presence upon me.
There are ties that bind us, that many people today discount, not because they do not experience them, but western society and its limiting science has taught scorning them as primitive, impossible, delusions. We are urged to drown them out, to attach no significance to them, especially to dying and death, which is partly why so many not only look at, but keep seeking violent photos of the war in Ukraine as some kind of gruesome reminder death really happens….
Eiko was Japanese, as her name suggests, an Army wife like my mother. Our families had first met in Germany where both husbands were stationed, and then later both families ended up at the final post. Our families were very close, and we spend much time together along with others like ourselves but the “local” population, too.
Her husband was Irish American/Cherokee (he first taught many of us beginning Cherokee). My best-est friend’s father was Hawaiian and her mother Chinese. Other couples: German/Mexican, Black American/Korean, Hungarian/Spanish. All us kids grew up together, sometimes going to each other’s language, dance, cooking or etiquette classes.
We didn’t just see them when inviting them at a restaurant, an event or at school, we had sleepovers. We had backyard parties in summer. When we weren’t far away with family (but sometimes even then), at work or school, we were with each other.
We learned their histories first hand not just sometimes or from Eurocentric interpreted sources, but years of being a community who supported each other in any way necessary. Literally, all kinds of skin tones, ethnicities, cultures, traditions, cuisines, personalities together.
We didn’t appropriate either, because from personally spending time with people or simply respecting their history and sovereignty, that would be unthinkably disrespectful to them. Each showed, shared and informed us of what was acceptable, and we respected those boundaries.
Naturally, as we grew up there were some we had a greater affinity to others. Eiko was more mine, as she was rather reserved in some ways, but would never hesitate to correct or inform when it was needed. To adult or child. She did so in a way that made great good sense every time. Whenever she got me, I deserved it. That was something I wanted to emulate because I was always a slow or non speaker.
As I was also particularly a lover of history, culture, storytelling, even as a kid I accepted any opportunity to learn firsthand. Many afternoons were spent watching TV at her little house while she painted, crocheted, knitted, and beaded the most intricate, wonderful creations. In walking home from school, I had to walk by her house. She might be sitting on her porch on the red bench expressly to invite me in for a snack and just to chat. (2nd photo).
When I say I’m a long time lover of many things Japanese many people assume Anime, but she later had Japanese stations by satellite. We watched Japanese news, broadcasts, events, sports, cinema. I’m very thankful to have had such knowledge, cultural insight and experiences from her.
When my sister and I grew up, and each had a child born, Eiko fed them from her mouth just like she’d done us. She bopped them when they needed it and told them why, and treated them with respect for who they were too, not something many adults remember to do for all children.
When her husband passed away some years ago, and her kids were doing their own lives, our family still spent a lot of time with her. We’d help her shop on Post, get her hair done. My son and I would help her clean her house, till and plant her garden and care for her yard, a gem in the neighborhood for decades. We were rewarded with fried rice, more stories of Japan and watching Japanese TV….just being with her.
My mom and I was talking on the phone March 9th, and I asked her to send me a certain pic (1st pic). My son was about six weeks old. We were at a gathering someplace, and Eiko was holding him. People would always come up to remark on him because he was the cutest baby they’d ever seen (their words, not mine). Well, one lady asked her how old her baby was. And Eiko did her blink-blink like she did when she was thinking and said, “Are you crazy? I’m almost 65 years old! Gosh.”
We’d all laughed and laughed.
In March 2020, after almost 10 years of being physically away, I confirmed her telephone number was the same and called. She recognized me almost immediately, calling me by my childhood name.
We had continued to send letters and postcards, as she didn’t use a computer. We’d send her gifts occasionally, but she was vehemently against that afraid we might be going without food to do so. She would send us boxloads of underwear and socks in return. Eiko hadn’t simply been born in post-WW2 Japan, she had lived THROUGH WW2, having been born in 1935.
“You’re still in Germany?” she kept asking, then stated, “You’ve been gone too long. Come home. You must come home.” And I told her, we had just been planning to do so when the Corona Pandemic hit, that we would get back as soon as we could. She asked for more photos of my son, which I promised. “Gosh, he must be big now!” She said. He was big the last time she’d seen him.
In the earlier days of FW documentary production when I was working with a German guy, he’d lost a friend and said he couldn’t work for a while, which I completely understood. However, he added, you all lose family and friends so often you are used to it, but for someone like me, its very hard.
I mention that because it’s still that level of ignorance and privilege that infuriates me. It is exactly the opposite and it reoccurs to me now. When you lose loved ones again and again, often not just from natural death, but violent assaults, apathy or medical mistreatment, it only increases your grief, trauma. It compounds again and again and again until you can barely take a breath, your eyes are open but you cannot see, and there’s a constant screaming inside your heart and mind. See my article, “When I Think of America” at Medium.com, its a personal essay on these and more topics as well.
Nearly every one of my closest, dearest friends from childhood have passed away since we’ve been here in Germany. Friends who visited or took turns with you at the hospital taking care of family, who listened and didn’t always try to minimize or give you unasked for advice especially when they’ve never lived anything like they’d asked you to describe. Friends who knew saying “just keep hoping!” or “have patience!” can be even more hurtful when you were dealing with depression, domestic violence, racism, whatever it was, especially if they were not or could never. Who held you or sat with you, made you a meal when you were tired, shared in your joys, and shared their joys and happy or sad times. Being away from that, has been the hardest, especially when losing a loved one.
Losing Eiko, and not being there for my mother, one of her best friends, and our other surviving friends, which are now very few. Very few. There are no words to describe that feeling as Corona and war rages on.
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