Friday, February 3, 2012
Everyday I passed by this breathtaking harbor view to get to the temporary housing complex. Not far from this bay, it is a sight full of destruction: bare foundations of houses, metal infrastructure of buildings with many artifacts hanging over them, proving once there were lives living here. I stared at the beautiful, calm horizon, trying to imagine what it was like on that fatal day.
Did these pastel colors turned black? How high did the water go? Were there any cars taken from my current position? My imagination is out run by the reality.
I continue to pass by it everyday, pondering what it is like when such beauty turned into a monster.
And I ponder, what I am like when that time comes.
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." ~Psalm 46:1-3
O God my Lord, if I am less faith than that, please help me. Because I am of little faith, but I choose to believe in You.
This was the first time I talked with a survivor who has lost an immediate family member.
In our mobile cafe, Yuri was a middle-aged lady with a polite smile. Sitting beside me, she joined in the conversation occasionally. When she was not, Yuri would seemed to have left us briefly to be in a world of her own, deep in thoughts, frozen in time.
When I asked about if her family was ok in the tsunami, her facial expression froze for a moment. Then she shook her head and said in a quiet voice, "My son was gone."
I wasn't quite sure of my ears and was suspecting my crappy japanese had misinformed me. In the moment I was hesitating, the topic of the group conversation changed like a tidal wave in the ocean, washed over the hidden wound Yuri has just spoken of. I felt a great sense of grief and tenseness from Yuri, and somehow I felt this was something very important that needed to be told today. I caught a chance to ask her again about her son.
Where was your son at that time? I asked.
He was working, in the car on his way going somewhere, then the tsunami came, she said. Tears started glittering in her eyes. They found his car, but not him.
The group went quiet.
"Can you tell us about you son?" I asked gently. "Anything... something happy, something special, something that you remembered about him."
"Something about my son..." she hesitated, and her eyes started wandering into that world of her memory.
"Don't strain yourself over it," one of the volunteers said.
I prayed desperately in my heart, asking God how far would He allow the story to be told today. From my experience in playback theater, I truly believe being able to tell one's experience of pain is the first step toward healing. I stayed with her in that moment of brewing thoughts, guarding that moment of awkward silence that I could see others were uncomfortable with.
Suddenly she broke the silence.
"He was huge," she said.
Then she told us about her son Kasuki practiced Sumo from from primary school to junior high. Because he was big and practicing Sumo, no one on the class dared to bully him. Just when he started high school, he refused to do Sumo anymore. "I hate it!" Kasuki said. I'd always wandered why he hated it, Yuri smiled. She was smiling faintly and there was a sparkle in her eyes as she told us about Kasuki.
But with my house washed away, I have lost everything of him. Not even a picture.
At the end, we prayed with Yuri. There was no one I really could tell this to in the temp house, Yuri said. But I felt more relieved now that I have spit it out. One of the volunteers, who is also a mother, gave her a hug in tears and Yuri broke down crying in her arms.
It was a beautiful scene.
Varying from the previous work I have done with All Hands, the type of work we are doing at CRASH Japan is mainly emotional/spiritual care. A mobile cafe that goes to different temporary housing complex regularly creates a space for people to be listened to and to build community. It has been almost a year since the devastating disaster has happened. I was abit in shock when I first learned how some residents still do not know anyone in their temporary housing complex. Slowly, I began to learn this is at large a common phenomena, if not the majority. In many of the temp house complex, residents come from different area, only a few lucky complexes are blessed with people who come from the same neighborhood of their previous life. Japan is a society where the building of community takes time and relational connections. The earthquake and tsunami have not only torn families apart, but also communities that had been living the area for years if not generations. The devastation is not physical and emotional, but social as well.
My first day's work was distributing blanket at temp house complex. An elderly grandma came to answer the door.
"Come in, come in, it's so cold outside!" She greeted us with the warmest smile.
Grandma Setsu* lives in this unit alone with a daughter living close by. As we were drinking green tea and peeling mandarin over an exchange of conversation, she told us about herself. Because of her diabetic condition and other unmentioned reasons, she said she doesn't go out much nor does she has visitors. She pulled out a letter she has received from her long time friend Miyu. Miyu left her home town Ootsuchi, an area seriously damaged by the tsunami, to live with her son in Chiba. She wrote in her letter that she doesn't know anyone in the neighborhood, alone in the house everyday. Miyu desperately wants to come back to Ootsuchi, where her friends and home are, and were. Grandma Setsu paused, with her gaze far far away. After a moment of silence, she said, "I want to meet her so much. But she did not include a returning address." I held her hand in mine, patting the back of her hand gently, as we took a moment to let all the feelings occupy the tiny room in a loud silence.
** For privacy reason, all names in all entries will either be a partial or fake name.