No, this has nothing to do with Robin Leach and his “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” sign off at the end of the old TV show “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” This is about honoring my mother in a way I think she would find thoughtful and meaningful. Five years ago today, my mom passed away. And tonight, my son and I will honor her memory by having a traditional Japanese meal that she often prepared for us: Tarako (caviar), gohan (steamed rice), nori (seaweed), shoyu (soy sauce), furikake (a topping for rice made of fish, seaweed and sesame seeds), cha (green tea) and red bean cake for dessert. She would love it! We will place a table setting for her with rice and the whole works, as she made an offering to her Holy Ones every day at a little shrine she had set up in her family room.
I miss her so very much. I wish you had known her. Toshiko was a woman of great Beauty, Courage, Love and Faith. Her Beauty is obvious in her photos—porcelain skin, black hair, great bones, perfect figure. But she was also beautiful on the inside and had an appreciation for the simple things in life. Mostly, that meant time with family. My dad, sister and I were her life and she was completely committed to us. She had an appreciation for beauty all around her, whether it was nature, clothing, jewelry, or art. She is legend in our family for the intricate bedspreads and tablecloths she would spend months crocheting for family members far and wide. Those gifts of love and beauty are cherished by loved ones to this day and, in fact, are being passed down from one generation to the next.
Toshiko was a woman of Courage. She met and married my father—an American soldier stationed in Japan during the U.S. Occupation after the Second World War. That was not an easy decision for her to make. She had been designated to carry on her family name because there were no sons—she was an only child. She gave up her family and her country to start a family of her own and adopt a new country. Once here, life was challenging. My parents married at the height of racism in our country and Mom said in the beginning of life with Dad, she often felt like a monkey in a zoo because people stared at her. She was different. So she said she stared right back—but smiled. I can’t honestly say that I would have the courage she did to leave my family and home to start a new life where I knew only one person and barely spoke his language.
Tosh would tell you it was Love that gave her Courage. She told my sister and me, “Love is blind. We made it work because we love each other. It didn’t matter that we were different. It didn’t matter that other people didn’t like it.” It’s pretty simple, isn’t it? Not easy, but simple. She chose love. I don’t know that anything more needs to be said about it. I thank God she chose love because without it, I wouldn’t be here right now.
Mom’s love was so deep that when Daddy died 17 years ago—shortly after they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary—she nearly died, too. We thought she kept having heart attacks, but testing revealed none of the blood enzymes present after heart attacks. Her doctors came to the conclusion that she was suffering from a broken heart. It made perfect sense. Her emotional heart was broken. Her soul mate was gone. However, Mom was a woman of Faith and she knew that she and Daddy would be reunited one day. She hung in there for 12 years without Dad…and then she just couldn’t do it any longer. She said it was time for her to go. We don’t know how she did it, but my sister and I are convinced that she planned to die as close as possible to the anniversary of our dad’s death. He passed on April 22nd. Mom passed on April 13th.
So April is a significant month for me. I am reminded every year at this time of the cycle of life. Birth. Death. Rebirth. April is a reminder to love deeply, speak my love, live in the now, and savor that love is eternal. I miss you, Mommy, and think of you every day. Each time I look in the mirror, I see you looking back at me…
Time now for that dinner and caviar dreams. Godspeed.
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Denise Yamada © 4/2012