On August 1, 2011, our little Japanese sister-in-law, Masako, died. She was Sam's wife and the first of Frank's siblings and their spouses to go. She and Sam, Frank's older brother, have been two of my favorite people for almost fifty years, and I miss her very much. Masako leaves behind Sam; her son, Tim; his wife, Molly; and their three children -- Mackenzie, Becca, and Harrison. Becca and Harrison can't remember a day when their grandma didn't live in the same house with them. Since Mackenzie is a little older, she may have memories of a time before Sam and Masako were right there with them. I doubt it, though. The whole family has a lot of adjusting to do, so all of us in the family are praying for them.
We drove to Bremerton, WA, to be with the family in order to celebrate Masako's life, and that's just what we did -- celebrate. Don't get me wrong . . . there were tears, but there were also smiles and laughter as we remembered so many things about her. We told lots of stories!
Sam asked Frank to speak at her funeral and the third of the older brothers to sing. It was a delight . . . yes, a delight . . . to hear Frank and Jim honor their sister-in-law. Though I didn't say anything at the funeral (now, that's a surprise, isn't it? The Mouth of the South quiet for once . . .), I wrote a letter to Masako, recalling my special memories of her. Here it is . . .
August 15, 2011
I’m writing this letter with a combination heart—part of it is heavy because you’re not here with us; the other part is light because of all the good memories that I have of us for the past almost fifty years. Today, I’m concentrating on the light part.
I can hardly remember what I had for breakfast yesterday; however, I remember vividly the first time we met. The beautiful memory that I’ll always carry with me is of you on December 16 and 17, 1961. Those were the dates of our rehearsal dinner and wedding in Pensacola, and you, Sam, Shurly, and Fred were there. You brought two absolutely gorgeous kimonos, one silver and one gold, to wear to our two events, and you were the loveliest one there.
Almost a year later, I saw you again, this time in Eastern Washington in the middle of the night, when Frank and I went with Grandma and Grandpa to rescue you, Sam, Bob, and Kay because your car broke down when you were coming home from Maine. We were together for a few days before you and Sam left for San Diego. I remember that my tender heart was broken, seeing you and Sam leave. I didn’t know when I’d see you again, and the tears began to flow. Grandma turned to me and quietly said, “We don’t do that in our family.” Well, dear sister-in-law, I did it! And I did it again when you left me this time.
The next real memory I have of being with you was again in Fall City, in that lovely old house that Grandma and Grandpa lived in. It was unlike anything else I’d ever seen, and I loved it. My picture of us is in the bathroom, the two of us bathing a couple of very dirty little boys who had been playing outside all day. I can just see that filthy bath water now. And I also see Timmy doing something that didn’t please you, then you swatting him with your hard little hand, and then Jay screaming in pain for his cousin. And what was Timmy doing? Just looking at you. What a memory! One of my favorites!
Next I see the two of us many years later in Pensacola, where you were living so that Sam could do two things that he’d always wanted to do—work in a retail store and go to college. He did both while you turned that little house on Jackson Street into a lovely home. Tim and Jay attended Bellview Middle School together and got into mischief after school and on weekends. What I remember best is that you and I both received microwaves for Christmas that year and attended cooking classes at Escambia High School one evening a week. All we learned that stayed with us was to put a cup of water in the oven, heat it for three minutes, and use a damp cloth to clean the crud out that had been softened by the steam. Worked fine for years. Now the experts tell us that we can’t do that anymore. The cup of water will explode and give us awful burns. Maybe so, but I still clean my microwave this way and think of you and smile every time I do it.
Through the years, we’ve been to your and Sam’s home so many times, and each time was so much fun, even the Christmas that Frank, Jay, and I were in Fall City and then in Bremerton with you. You may remember that we had to extend our stay for a couple of days because we were snowed in. That extension was no problem because we were with the Youngs!
I guess, though, the visit that will forever stay with me was the last one, the one this spring. You were so ill, but you managed to perk up a bit when we went wig shopping. Sam asked me to go with the two of you, and I agreed, knowing full well that I knew nothing about shopping for a wig for you. But we had a good time going to the vocational school where wigs and “head warmers” were given freely to cancer patients. We had such a good time laughing as we chose from wigs, wigs, and more wigs, some of them not nearly good enough for you, as far as I was concerned.
We walked out with about a dozen warmers and three beautiful wigs. I was so excited for you to have the wigs because I know that a lady always feels better, even when ill, if she looks pretty, and you, my dear sister-in-law looked very pretty with your new hair!
As we left your home in April 2011, I knew that I’d never see you again, and yes, the tears came as we drove away. I will always remember you, and you’ll always have a very special place in my heart. Pictures will always come to mind, but the one that I want to keep in the forefront is our beautiful Masako in her lovely kimono on December 17, 1961 . . . at our wedding almost fifty years ago. I love you, Masako, always have, always will.