|St Valentine's||Free sheet music||Contact|
|This was my first piano solo
composition - which I started just before Valentine's Day and finished shortly
On the 1st of April, my friend Hiroko called me to tell me that she may be dying. I spoke to her husband that evening to ask if it was some kind of April fool's joke.
She had been diagnosed with liver cancer. It was very hard for me to believe it: a woman so vibrant, so alive, so healthy, so creative, and so charismatic.
I decided to dedicate this piece to her. Unfortunately, I was not able to play it for her in person, for by the time I visited her, she had moved to the hospital. Still, I played for her son and husband - who videotaped the session.
After my visit, I gave the adjacent speech at my Toastmasters' Club.
She returned home after many medical treatments - and passed away shortly before her 48th birthday.
14 February 2000
I have always believed, for a woman to be happy, she needs to be three things: a wife, a mother, and a career woman. I have for so long pursued the last that I have neglected the first two. Today I would like to share with you a fine example of my ideal. Her name is Hiroko, and I have known her for exactly 15 years. She is also 15 years older than me, which means she was my age now when I first met her.
Hiroko is a travel agent and a tour guide, but a special one. She works from her home in Southern California for a Japanese agency in Tokyo. She designs luxury tours for special people like Sumo wrestlers, millionaires, special clubs, and anyone who can afford such a tailor made package. She tells me that her work is play to her. This reminds me of a Tibetan Lama who once remarked that he could not understand why people in the Western world looked forward to holidays. They work work work, and then play and play. why can't work be play? and play be work? When you would pay to work, that's when work is play for you. She has accomplished just that. She loves designing tours and then going on them. She never visits the same place twice. From Caribbean cruises to treks in Peru, she has done it all. She does not need a holiday, to get away from work. Work is a holiday.
The rest of the time, she is both a wife and a mother. She is wife to a professor of Japanese literature. When they first met, he was starting his master's degree. They corresponded over the course of nearly three years before he proposed to her in London. Thereafter she worked while he pursued his PhD. It was a long, arduous process. For her, the PhD stood for "Push Husband to Doctorate." After he finished, he got a job in North Carolina, not quite the exciting place she would like to be. that's where I met her. She said that there were so few Japanese people there that you were obliged to become friends with whomever you meet. I used to visit her and play the piano while she cooked. Without access to Japanese supermarkets, she had to make her own tofu and other Japanese food from scratch such was her invention of the "tofu burger".
It was a lonely life, being the wife of a struggling academic. Just after I turned twenty, she became a mother. She was so excited - getting pregnant, being pregnant, and then finally becoming a mother. The next seven years we corresponded across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. We exchanged postcards of exotic places, sharing our love of music and travel. When the three of them finally met me again, Christmas in London, her son was already quite a well-spoken boy. He spoke Japanese and English fluently and played the piano. Two years later, I lived with them for three weeks and became part of the wonderfully bi-cultural bilingual artistic family. I admired the way she was able to juggle her three positions: wife, mother, and career woman.
I visited her in early May. We had in fact planned it more than six months ago. She had wanted to come with me to San Diego. Never could I have imagined that I would be visiting her for the final time. As she lay there, weak and thin, I thought of the next 15 years that would never be. She smiled and acknowledged that she has had a good life. She only wished she could live long enough to hold her grandchild someday. Liver cancer is not so forgiving,.
Hiroko is a fine example of my ideal of the three-in-one: wife, mother, and career woman. She is a devoted wife, a loving mother, and a successful business woman. At my age when she met me, she was already a successful business woman. I have still to catch up, but she has shown me the way. No longer the bubbly, energetic, and vibrant woman now, she remains my mentor and older sister. I dedicate this speech to her.