If I’m going to keep you up to date on what’s happening in my life, I guess I have to put in the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. This has been a sad week for me. For 47 years, I have had the most wonderful stepmother imaginable, an incredibly kind, loving woman. I never heard her say a mean word about anyone, never saw her get angry. She was Japanese, an artist (a painter), and an incredibly gentle person. Everyone who knew her loved her, she was wonderful to me and my children. Even now, in later years, she would send us all little notes to encourage us, and thoughtful small gifts. She was the consummate kind person. Her name was Kuniko.
She wasn’t very old, but she has been gradually getting more frail. She still had a lively spirit, she painted, read current books and was interested in the world, although she hasn’t gone out much in the past year. I returned from Paris ten days ago, and visited her two days later, and found her in dire strait’s. She appeared to be unconscious, although she then opened her eyes twice when I spoke to her. And fearing that it could be he last time I saw her, I told her all the things I wanted to say to her, and thanked her for all the years she had been wonderful to me, all the kind things she did, the love she lavished on me. I don’t know if she heard me, but I wanted to say them just in case. And since her eyes opened twice, I hope she heard me. I also read two letters to her that my children had given me for her. And then I left. And she died that night. I couldn’t help wondering if she wanted for me to return from Paris, I called her several times from there, and she was sleeping.
I don’t think I will ever come to a place of peace about people disappearing. The whole idea of never seeing someone you love again is so awful. It is such an empty place in your heart, an ache, like a severed limb. The person you knew and loved is suddenly no longer there. When my son died, I kept waiting for him to jump out of a hiding place and tell me it was a joke, the way he did when he was little. I could never come home from a trip without expecting to see him, and feeling the ache of loss again. It will take me time now to get used to the idea of my stepmother being gone. I will always miss her. She is a big piece of my history and my adolescence. She always came to stay with me for several weeks when I had a baby.
She was a talented painter and a very creative person. She was from Tokyo, and lived in Paris, New York, and recently California. And she was so kind to us all.
The funeral was yesterday and it was very hard. She was my last living ‘adult’ relative, since I am the only child of only children, have no uncles or aunts, and both my parents are gone. Now she is too. It has been a huge blow and to my children as well. The funeral was very pretty, beautifully done by the pastor of my church, with all the touches she would have loved. He asked each of us to say in one word the quality of hers we loved best, which brought us actively into the service. The flowers were beautiful, and the music. Her family and ours were there, and I put some of her paintings up around the room. And even some members of her college class came, and friends from her childhood. I think she would have liked it.
When I called to ask the priest to do the service, he said to me that “The Glory of God is men and women fully alive.” His sermon at the funeral was about joy, and noticing all the joyful moments in our days and lives. I loved what he said about being fully alive.
It was a wonderful reminder to stay connected in the world, to stay busy, and engaged, and live life to the fullest. Fully alive. I want to do that. And her passing was a reminder to cherish those you love while they are with you. We will miss her so very, very much.