Death leaves heartache that
No one can heal, love leaves
A memory no one can steal.
~Inscription on an Irish Headstone
This article is dedicated to my longtime friend and roommate who recently passed away. Her name was Barbara. She was more than a friend; she was a vital part of my family and life. My mother saw her as another daughter and would speak Japanese to her. The mystery of it was that Barbara could understand what was being said. I say mystery because Barbara was Native American from Oklahoma. She always said she got the gist of what my mother was saying. She enjoyed her first taste of the traditional Japanese dipping sauce of mayonnaise and shoyu which won the heart of my mother.
I first met Barbara when I was a sophomore in college. Another friend and I went to pick her up at the airport to bring her to Boulder, Colorado. She was entering her first year of law school. We took her to our favorite barbeque restaurant for lunch, where she proceeded to eat all my ribs. I was a little upset but that was the beginning of a very long relationship of 48 years.
She opened my mind into listening to other forms of music like Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, and Tammy Wynette. I even learned lyrics to some of the songs. When I hear the songs now, it brings back so many memories. She was the first to trust me to drive. I say trust because I had never driven a car before.
She was wise, brilliant, and had a sense of humor that very few people possessed. She was strong in spirit, yet gentle. She was articulate. She taught me to “prioritize” issues that were important. Being a law student, Barbara taught me to be clear in what I wanted to say and to argue a point with precision and justification. She was a good teacher.
With her ability to write, Barbara worked as a grants writer and ombudsman. She was responsible for reporting to the federal government on their progress, working with foreign companies, and researching areas of world trade. She was diligent and was always level headed on her affairs. She carried this into her life.
Barbara was always ready for an adventure. She took me on adventures that involved “borrowing” a roadblock blinking light and journeys to Yellowstone National Park. As she worked, I played. She lived each moment with gusto and with joy. She married and welcomed into her home an extended family. She did not discriminate and loved her grandchildren as her own.
She was very competitive when it came to Scrabble and shooting pool. When I went home on vacation, we had Scrabble marathons. Her husband cooked and we played. Barbara won most of the games. Yet one could depend on her to always be honest and trustworthy in games and in life.
I write about Barbara because Hatsubon is this month. I cannot be home but I can remember her in my Namu Amida Butsu and this article. She contributed to my growing up and this is a way of sharing my thankfulness and gratitude to her. She contributed to community, my life, and touched many people with her kindness and optimism. Barbara generated positive thinking and shared her compassion. I share my Namu Amida Butsu with Barbara for her compassion and wisdom.
Gassho, Reverend Seijo Naomi Nakano