Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pay It Forward

I spent a much-needed weekend away from home this past weekend. I will go ahead and say it:  it was an awesome time. It was the first time I've ever been away from all three of my kids and my husband at the same time. On top of that, I spent the weekend in one of my favorite places--Seattle. What made this weekend particularly special, however, was the reason for which I made the trip. 

A year and a half ago, my mother passed away suddenly. (Some of you know she was already dying of cancer, but her actual cause of death was congestive heart failure and a massive heart attack caused by the cancer drug Herceptin.) I say suddenly, but the final twenty or so hours of her life were particularly painful and difficult. Through it all, there was one person by her side, right up until she breathed her last breath. (My sister was also there for her last few hours.) This friend had driven from Seattle to Logan a few days previous for the sole purpose of caring for her during that round of chemotherapy. She was the one who broke the news to me of my mom's dire situation. She didn't leave town until after the funeral, at which she gave the most beautiful memorial to my mom.

Her name was Yuko Johnson, and she passed away last week after her own years-long battle with cancer. She was one of the most impressive people I have ever known. She is the reason I went to Seattle this weekend. I said this past weekend was awesome. It may be strange to say that of a funeral weekend, but it just was. 

When I arrived in Seattle, Yuko's husband and daughter welcomed me into their home and we had a very nice and heartfelt visit. Chris's family, of course, was there, and Yuko's friends came and went as the day wore on. I have known Yuko for twenty or so years, and it was absolutely lovely to learn about Yuko from people who knew her even longer and from other times and places of her life. I enjoyed visiting with Tia, her daughter, and being able to recognize the many things she must have picked up from her mother. The one thing that impressed me the most was that there were so many people in the world who absolutely loved this woman. She was a true friend to all these people. I won't go into a lot of detail about Yuko's life, but I can attest that it was a particularly full and dynamic one.

I wish I could have given her a big hug before she left. I suppose that I will get my chance someday. 

By the time it was time for me to return home, I was refreshed and ready to face my crazy life again. I also had a heart full of gratitude--that I had Yuko for a friend, that I was able to meet and make friends with so many of her friends, and that I have her as a teacher and example. Heck, I was grateful for being able to travel so far away, even if it meant having to submit to a full body search at airport security because I absolutely refuse to go through the full-body scanner. 

Here are some photos from the weekend. I searched all my digital photos for anything with Yuko in it, but I had nothing, unfortunately. This is Yuko's sweet mother-in-law and some of her friends. One traveled all the way from Germany. The tall girl in the middle is Yuko's daughter who just returned from and LDS mission. (She also has a son who is currently serving a mission in Brazil.) We made Japanese curry for lunch. Delicious food, warm company, lovely lunch.

This is at her graveside service. I was so glad and honored to be invited. Yuko's daughter is on the far left, and the rest of us are friends from all over the world.

I know that I am now refreshed and can better do my day job on a basic level. I hope to be a better wife, mother, sister, and person. Yuko, I hope to be a bit more like you.

Mata au hi made.


Karie said...

Tia pointed me to your blog about Yuko. What a heart touching post. Would you mind if we included it with some memories of Yuko, in a book we are giving to Chris?- Karie (Chris' youngest sister)

Katie said...

You are more than welcome to use this. I would love for you to use this. A little extra tidbit: the title of this blog post is actually a quote from Yuko--advice she gave me when my own mother passed away.