My desire to create art comes from my search for the meaning of our existence. I use my artwork as a key to understand others and myself. The most precious thing in my life is the growth process. Art is my guide and mentor....

Monday, January 3, 2022

Turning Point


New Year’s Day in New York City was rainy. However, a photo of my friend's New Year's Day sunrise reminded me that another part of the world is sunny. I learned that what I see in front of me, is not always true.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, I’ve been feeling the importance of freedom, health, and peace more than ever. Because of the pandemic it was difficult to return to Japan. My father was hospitalized 7 months ago and died on December 19, 2021 at 3:20 AM, Japan time. He was 82 years and three months old. I would like to share my experiences and feelings.

On December 18th, my sister from Japan video called me in New York. This allowed me to be with my father and our family in my father’s last hours alive. My sister brought her cell phone closer to our father's face so he could hear my voice. I could see his facial expressions and reactions up close. I thanked my father. Even though we were apart, my heart has always been with my father. 

The day after my father died was my mother's birthday. He was finally able to go back home. The smile on his face as he lay dead in his house, and in the funeral home, healed our whole family. From the time when life and death intersected, I felt my father was watching over us at the soul level. His presence made us closer than ever. Since my father was diagnosed with dementia 12 years ago, each family member has learned a lot from him.

I was in conflict with my father because of differences in our values. I moved to New York City in 1994 to live freely in my own way. Some of the reasons I was able to survive in New York without relying on my parents, was that I wanted to prove my freedom, independence, and responsibility to my father. 

In 2010, I held my first solo exhibition in Japan entitled Transformation: Question to Myself. My relationship with my father began to improve gradually when my father came to see my artworks. At that time, my father developed dementia and retired from work. I was worried about my father's illness and returned to Japan every year until 2019, before the pandemic began. The days I spent with my father helped us heal each other and smooth out our differences. I learned about myself from my father and was able to make precious memories with him.

Family relationships can be deep and loving. Parents tend to expect children to do what parents think is good. Due to differences in generations and values, one's happiness may not be the other's happiness. Parents and children are unique persons with different constitutions and personalities. During my relationship with my father, we learned to respect each other with love, which was greater than our differences. The growth of our individual souls through mutual understanding was a key lesson I learned for my changing future.

The morning my father was hospitalized, I talked with him on a video call. My father's words of compassion for our family were so clear that I couldn't believe he had dementia. It seemed to me that he knew everything that was likely to happen to him, and he told me his wishes. Instinctively thinking that I might not be able to see my father anymore, I thanked him for bringing me into the world with my mother. I apologized for not being with him. My father's last words to me that day were "Please remember me”. After being hospitalized, he eventually couldn't speak, walk, or eat.

My father was in and out of 3 different hospitals and one group home since May 2021. At the first hospital, our family couldn't see him for almost 3 months because of the Covid-19 pandemic. When he stopped eating and his condition was in danger, my mother and sister were allowed to visit him for a few minutes. He started eating again and managed to leave the hospital. However, he was thin, couldn’t walk, needed a wheelchair, and couldn't speak. After that, the days when he couldn't meet his family continued, and his health rapidly declined. All I can do now is find out what my father experienced, and what he was trying to convey for the past seven months. 

A Kusudama medicine ball I made for my father and those suffering from illness, is on display at the Arsenal Gallery titled “39th annual wreath interpretations exhibition in Central Park through January 6th, 2022. 

At this summer's Kusudama making workshops, I met people who were as sick as my father, who were going to be operated on, and many who were worried about the Covid-19 pandemic. Workshop participants and I were healed by connecting over our common wishes for "health and peace”. My father, who continues to inspire me, was a mentor my entire life.

Now I am standing at a turning point in my life. While looking back on what I've done so far, I question myself again, and start something new. The colder the Winter, the more vital the Spring and the dramatic return of new buds. It's time to learn from the pandemic, review our society and our way of life, and regain confidence in our health for the future we want.

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