(I apologize ahead of time, because this post is longer than usual. But once you read it I think you’ll understand why)
“Prepare for Landing” three words that are said routinely when a plane reaches its destination. My seatbelt does not have to be buckled because I am one of those people that even when seatbelt sign goes off I keep it clasped. I do begin to chew gum and grip the armrests in preparation for the bump (hopefully a slight one) when we touch down on the tarmac.
I know what is normally expected when a plane lands and thankfully it has never varied. However, not so with life events. Because no matter how much I believe I thought something through and have a vision in my head on where all the pieces should land; there are still moments when I’m gripping the armrest expecting all to go as it should (well as I think it should) but then find myself tumbling off the seat and on to my bottom because I didn’t notice the seatbelt was broken.
This scenario happened when I was first diagnosed with RSD, when my mom was first diagnosed with Hepatitis C, and when she passed away in January. Events out of my control, which I fought but could not change the outcome that was part of God’s plan.
However, I found out that it can work in my favor as well. When we recently went to Hiroshima, I expected sadness. And there was that. Visiting the A dome in person and seeing the shell of a building with twisted metal inside its dilapidated walls encircled by crumbled cement and mortar, hit my heart’s center and broke it. The thought that so much death and horror engulfed this very spot where modern buildings now stood, took my breath away. It was only the first gasp of many that day as we toured the Hiroshima Peace Museum.
But, there was unexpected happiness. One moment happened before we toured the Hiroshima Peace Museum. I had an appointment with the librarian at the Hiroshima Victims Memorial Museum. She spoke relatively decent English (definitely better than I spoke Japanese). We had corresponded previously by email so I could apply to have my mother’s name and information of where she was at the time of the bombing, along with her Grandfather’s on the Memorial wall.
The librarian and her colleague (who spoke no English) looked up information in old phonebooks and told me there was proof of my Great Grandfather living at the address in Hiroshima. All other paper documents were lost in the war so to have something concrete was like discovering him all over again! Also, they took the time to research old maps with current maps of city and pinpointed the area in Hiroshima where my mom’s house once stood. To my surprise, she lived much closer to the epicenter than she had described to me. She was about 2 KM away! A feeling of awe and amazement that even as close to the epicenter she was, she still survived. Definitely a living miracle in my eyes.
Armed with this newfound information about my family, we toured the Hiroshima Peace Museum exhibits. By this time in the trip, walking was no longer a viable option for me, so thankfully wheelchairs were available and we received our own personal guide through the museum.
When you enter the first wing of the museum, the walls are detailed like a brick building that had been hollowed out by the explosion. In these holes were pictures of the flattened landscape covered in smoldering building debris. As we turned the corner, there was a lifelike, wax depiction of the students who were in the center of town in the aftermath of the bomb’s detonation. Fire swirled and the children had skin peeling off their bodies. This brought tears to my eyes as I stifled a cry. My mother witnessed these scenes at the tender age of 12, too young to fully comprehend, yet old enough to NEVER FORGET.
Some of the exhibits displayed fragments of clothing or other personal items left behind. In one area the actual steps from a bank where an eerie shadow is the only proof a person ever existed. (The shadow was left behind from the flash of the bomb as the body completely evaporated due to the extreme heat of the bomb). Other exhibits showed pieces of glass that were embedded in furniture and peoples’ bodies. My mother still had pieces of glass in her scalp from that day.
We then stood in Peace Park in front of the cenotaph covering the stone coffin (where the names of the victims are inscribed after their death). The very stone coffin where my mom’s name will now be added next to her Grandfather’s. The cenotaph is an arch protecting the victims that could not be protected by any person that day 70 years ago. I knew I would cry here. I planned for it with many tissues.
And I used every one of them. But, here is where the landing again did not go as expected—I felt a sense of peace. A sense of closure that she was where she wanted to be. I was so glad to honor her this way with my daughter and husband, whom she loved very much. I could feel her spirit with us.
But it did not end there. Because as we stood in peace park, the wind picked up and we were reminded that “Oh, yeah there is a typhoon headed straight for Hiroshima tonight.” Yup, a typhoon. Now you may wonder why the heck we had forgotten this small little detail. Well, the weather that morning was beautiful and the people in town and at the museum were not fazed by the incoming typhoon at all. Very unlike in the States where we would have 24 hour coverage and urgent pleas to batten down the hatches but not before getting as much milk and bread off the grocer’s shelves as humanly possible (I exaggerate, but not by much) 🙂
We now had a decision to make. DO we go back to where we were staying on Miyajima Island(part of Hiroshima but a 10 minute ferry ride over to it as it sits in the Seto Inland Sea), or stay somewhere on the mainland of Hiroshima? We decided to take a cab to the ferry and we caught the last one back to Miyajima Island. (I chose the hotel on Miyajima Island because my mother had her naming ceremony at the Shinto shrine on the island).
By that time the wind was howling and we hunkered down for the night (I was in pain and emotionally drained so sleep came surprisingly easier than expected). We awoke the next morning to a cloudy sky, no rain or flooding, and only a small amount of debris washed up on the beach. We were prepared for the worst, yet we were blessed and protected. I am sure my mom intervened on our behalf as a guardian angel and sheltered us from harm in her hometown.
There was also joy in knowing that where I walked in Hiroshima and at the shrine on the island may have been the very paths she walked as a little girl before the bomb. I smiled as I viewed the panoramic scenery of the mountains surrounding the inland sea, thinking these were the views seen through my mother’s eyes of a home she once adored. In that moment, I felt the closest to her since she passed away. I was not prepared for that particular landing during our bittersweet visit.
I am extremely grateful for that experience. I hope you can all take a few minutes tomorrow August 6th to remember the people under that famous mushroom cloud 70 years ago. Because, they were someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, or child. I will continue my mother’s prayer for peace so that it will never happen again.