I just received the very sad news of the recent death of a young friend and neighbor who succumbed to lung cancer.
Yumie was a vibrant young woman who had a full life still ahead of her. She was among the persons I admired (please see this post from last year). She possessed a cheerful, optimistic and kind disposition. My husband aptly described her as “a special person who brightened the lives of everyone she encountered.” She faced lung cancer head on, not with a heavy or dim outlook, but with a valiant attitude and a smiling face and in good fighting spirit. Since her diagnosis, neither I nor my husband had witnessed her mope, complain, be despondent or angry, or wallow in self-pity. She actively researched doctors and treatments, and kept a blog in Japanese to share her experiences and encourage others in her situation. She did not hide her cancer and answered questions about it, but neither did she dwell on it or talk about it all the time. She was always upbeat that you forgot that she had had surgery, received constant bouts of chemo and lived with the thought of death hanging over her head.
Her life was short but undoubtedly rich and, despite the cancer, blessed. She had wonderful and supportive parents and sister, a loving, adoring and supportive husband, caring friends, and loyal izakaya (Japanese pub) customers many of whom lived or worked in the neighborhood.
Unlike other pubs which looked down-trodden, smelled of cigarette smoke and stale cigarettes, and troubled by drunken brawls, her izakaya was clean, welcoming, friendly and safe, especially for women. It was our local watering hole, where I met most of our neighbors who were exceedingly patient with my poor Japanese language skills, taught me a lot about Japanese culture, politics and society, and made me and my husband part of the local community.
Now, she’s gone. Her death has left a gaping hole that will be impossible to fill. Our lives, our community, and our neighborhood will never be the same but she will always remain in our hearts.