Friday, February 3, 2012

There is a Story to be Told

Jan 13, 2012.

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.

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