Kimie Obachan

26 Sep

My grandmother, Kimie-Obachan (obachan means grandma) passed away on June 13 2014, at 10:13am. She was 91.

Papa, my dad, her eldest son, was the last to see her.  Papa took a bullet train to Fukuoka, and as it was as if she waited to see him for the last time. She took her last breath a few hours later. She left as if she fell asleep.  Very peacefully.  Papa, was her pride and joy.  He was a good son.

As I mourn, I feel sadness, and guilt.  I’m so sorry, obachan, that I didn’t see you enough…  Yes, she lived a long, peaceful, good life. Yes, she did not suffer, like my other grandma who had suffered from battling cancer for her last years. She really had a great life, and the natural cycle of life is inevitable. I know that what I feel now is my own selfish regret, regrets that is now too late. We always lived far, even in Japan, we were an airplane ride away.  Then I moved to the US, and we became much more distant. It wasn’t just the physical distance, but I got older, and life just gets filled – I can not say that I was close to her, and now I regret that I didn’t make more effort to call her or write more letters.  

My memories of her are all from my childhood.  Back when we (my family) spent the summers in Kyushu. I remember the house, the park, the river in the back. I remember going to the local fish market and her teaching me how to prepare them in her kitchen. I remember the time when she taught me how to make green tea out from scratch. I remember it was a long process, from picking the green tea leaves off the bush, to actually getting it to a tea form. She was a teacher, a kind of a teacher that after all these years, the students she taught so many years ago, still comes by to say hello. I always loved to receive her letters, with her perfect handwriting. She was a tough lady, as long as I can remember, gardening vegetables and flowers. She would pick up spiders and bugs with her bare fingers when I freaked out. She made the most awesome ume-shu (plum wine) with the plum from her tree. Lastly, she was a traditional, submissive wife to grandpa, who passed away 6 years ago. She was the little lady that stood by her husband, cooked every meal, and poured tea during the day, and sake in the evening, for him, every day. She lost her hearing in the last few years, but I always remember her cute giggles. She was crafty, and full of knowledge about many things. I wish I had taken more time to talk to her about our family, about Kyushu, and about our traditions. I have so much more to learn from her. I am sad that my kids will never have the chance to learn from her, but at least they were able to meet her once. The last time I saw her was in 2009, when we dropped her off at the nursing home. Even after we drove off, I can see her waving her arm until we turned the corner. She was not the strong grandma I remember as a child. I remember feeling the reality of “cycle of life” as I held my baby and seeing little grandma waving…

Kimie Obachan, you were a lovely lady.

Kimie Obachan

Kimie Obachan


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