Saturday, September 06, 2008


About 3 hours ago, I learned that another of my private students passed away. I have lost two students in less than a month to cancer.

Michiko Nakamura was two years younger than I and so full of life. She was always cheerful and optimistic, brightening the classroom with her wit and vitality. As I write this, I can hear her voice entertaining us with one of her delightful stories. It's so hard to believe that I'll never see or hear her again.

A few months ago, Michiko began complaining of asthma and wore a face mask to class every week. Her voice was becoming hoarse, and she didn't seem to be improving. Suddenly I got a package from her returning a DVD she had borrowed (she loved movies and had seen just about every movie that I mentioned). Attached was a note saying that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. I thought I must be reading it wrong.

She went to Tokyo where she was receiving treatment at most likely one of the best hospitals in the country. Only a few weeks ago, she was showing signs of improvement and fully expected to return to Sapporo this month. We were all looking forward to being reunited. Then her condition worsened, her lungs filling with fluid.

The birthday ecard I sent her last week was never opened.

Unlike the student who passed away last month, Michiko's wake and funeral will be held in Tokyo where her daughter lives, so I won't be able to attend. However, our class will be having its own memorial time for her during our regular class time on Thursday. Because she and the other three students have been together for so long, the only way I can describe it is that it's going to feel out of balance without her.

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