Today was a relatively peaceful day. I got choked up with a couple tears welling up at one point while holding Naomi as I looked in her eyes and saw my father inside her fiery spirit.
On March 20, 1996, I was woken up around 5:45am by my dad as he asked me if I wanted to go to morning Aikido practice with him and mom. I said no as I had been up all night studying for an exam or something (I was a junior at Brooklyn Technical High School) and was exhausted. He said "okay...get some sleep. I love you." Half asleep I said " I love you dad." And those were the last words between the two of us. Apparently, my father was not well that morning and sat on the side lines of the dojo mat. Later he went to his doctors with a friend. The doctor did an ECG and did not see any problems. So our friend left my dad by his office in midtown and dad proceeded to do a task before heading into the office. He went to a nearby Citibank to withdraw money and soon after collapsed from a heart attack. He was alive while in the ambulance, but passed away in one of the city hospitals soon after. I can only imagine how lonely and how much traffic there was to get him to the hospital.
I attended school like usual, but I was also hustling to get myself set-up for an editor position in Tech's literary magazine, Horizons, so I had something to put on my college applications. As I walked outside with the magazine's advisor, I felt like someone had doused me with water and I felt a sudden emptiness in my being. When I arrived home, the air was cold and I saw my mother sitting alone. The first thing I asked "where's dad?" She told me what happened and I was stunned. Then I started to panic about things that didn't matter at that moment, like school work. I called friends to take down notes for class and flatly explained my dad passed away. It wasn't until a friend said "Mieko...shut up...do you realize what has just happened to you?" I'll have to say, my memories before his passing are fuzzy. Afterwards, life was more crystal clear as I was reminded to live life fully and for the purpose of something greater than myself.
It was a few weeks till I got to see my dad again, as we waited till spring vacation. Not easy to see your father in a casket; even harder over the years to not hear and then start to forget his voice. Every year as I look back, I realized life is short and we live on earth for some reason. My dad was a loyal husband, father, son, brother and friend. I know my life trajectory changed due to this moment in time. I felt guilty for a time about feeling fulfilled with who and what I have become after he died; by that I mean, all the amazing things I have done were due to what he left behind for me and his passing was a trigger point for a change in mindset.
Twenty years have passed, I look at what has happened for my family and I without him. And then I remember, though not physically here his presence shows in many ways in all our lives.
Thank you all for reading this reflective journey and rememberance.