INTERVIEWER: Can you describe the events of that morning?
TOMOYASU: I left home with my daughter, Masako. She was on her way to work. I was going to see a friend. An air-raid warning was issued. I told Masako I was going home. She said, “I’m going to the office.” I did chores and waited for the warning to be lifted.
I folded the bedding. I rearranged the closet. I cleaned the windows with a wet rag. There was a flash. My first thought was that it was the flash from a camera. That sounds so ridiculous now. It pierced my eyes. My mind went blank. The glass from the windows was shattering all around me. It sounded like when my mother used to hush me to be quiet.
When I became conscious again, I realized I wasn’t standing. I had been thrown into a different room. The rag was still in my hand, but it was no longer wet. My only thought was to find my daughter. I looked outside the window and saw one of my neighbors standing almost naked. His skin was peeling off all over his body. It was hanging from his fingertips. I asked him what had happened. He was too exhausted to reply. He was looking in every direction, I can only assume for his family. I thought, I must go. I must go and find Masako.
I put my shoes on and took my air-raid hood with me. I made my way to the train station. So many people were marching toward me, away from the city. I smelled something similar to grilled squid. I must have been in shock, because the people looked like squid washing up on the shore.
I saw a young girl coming toward me. Her skin was melting down her. It was like wax. She was muttering, “Mother. Water. Mother. Water.” I thought she might be Masako. But she wasn’t. I didn’t give her any water. I am sorry that I didn’t. But I was trying to find my Masako.
I ran all the way to Hiroshima Station. It was full of people. Some of them were dead. Many of them were lying on the ground. They were calling for their mothers and asking for water. I went to Tokiwa Bridge. I had to cross the bridge to get to my daughter’s office.
INTERVIEWER: Did you see the mushroom cloud?
TOMOYASU: I didn’t see the mushroom cloud. I was trying to find Masako.
INTERVIEWER: But the cloud spread over the city?
TOMOYASU: I was trying to find her. They told me I couldn’t go beyond the bridge. I thought she might be back home, so I turned around. I was at the Nikitsu Shrine when the black rain started falling from the sky. I wondered what it was.
INTERVIEWER: Can you describe the black rain?
TOMOYASU: I waited for her in the house. I opened the windows, even though there was no glass. I stayed awake all night waiting. But she didn’t come back. About 6:30 the next morning, Mr. Ishido came around. His daughter was working at the same office as my daughter. He called out asking for Masako’s house. I ran outside. I called, “It’s here, over here!” Mr. Ishido came up to me. He said, “Quick! Get some clothes and go for her. She is at the bank of the Ota River.”
I ran as fast as I could. Faster than I was able to run. When I reached the Tokiwa Bridge, there were soldiers lying on the ground. Around Hiroshima Station, I saw more people lying dead. There were more on the morning of the seventh than on the sixth. When I reached the riverbank, I couldn’t tell who was who. I kept looking for Masako. I heard someone crying, “Mother!” I recognized her voice. I found her in horrible condition. And she still appears in my dreams that way. She said, “It took you so long.”
I apologized to her. I told her, “I came as fast as I could.”
It was just the two of us. I didn’t know what to do. I was not a nurse. There were maggots in her wounds and a sticky yellow liquid. I tried to clean her up. But her skin was peeling off. The maggots were coming out all over. I couldn’t wipe them off, or I would wipe off her skin and muscle. I had to pick them out. She asked me what I was doing. I told her, “Oh, Masako. It’s nothing.” She nodded. Nine hours later, she died.
INTERVIEWER: You were holding her in your arms all that time?
TOMOYASU: Yes, I held her in my arms. She said, “I don’t want to die.” I told her, “You’re not going to die.” She said, “I promise I won’t die before we get home.” But she was in pain and she kept crying, “Mother.”
INTERVIEWER: It must be hard to talk about these things.
TOMOYASU: When I heard that your organization was recording testimonies, I knew I had to come. She died in my arms, saying, “I don’t want to die.” That is what death is like. It doesn’t matter what uniforms the soldiers are wearing. It doesn’t matter what uniforms the soldiers are wearing. It doesn’t matter how good the weapons are. I thought if everyone could see what I saw, we would never have war anymore.
Excerpt from “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close,” by Jonathan Safran Foer, pages 187-189.
I packed up my life this week. While sorting my belongings into “pack,” “donate,” and “trash” piles, I realized that there were a number of luxury items that had gone untouched.
Homemade candles, unlit.
Organic argan oil, and my favourite perfume, barely used.
Specialty food goods like truffle salt and saffron, saved indefinitely.
What’s the point in buying these items if we don’t use them and enjoy them? I had this frustration growing up with my mom’s fancy china that was always on display, but never on the table. Despite proclaiming to do differently, I failed.
It’s more than just luxurious treats though. I didn’t just pack my stuff; I packed my life. Left my job. Gave away most of my possessions. Re-homed my pet rabbit and turtle. Said goodbye to my home, apartment, neighborhood, and a city I love so dearly. In saying goodbye, the deep beauty of everyday moments is truly, magnificently revealed. These last few days I’ve been trying to savour every moment, trap them in my mind, and appreciate them as much as possible. This is why you should carpe diem every damn day. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
“Prayer for Protection” from Unity:
The light of the cosmos surrounds us.
The love of the cosmos enfolds us.
The power of the cosmos protects us.
The presence of the cosmos watches over us.
Wherever we are the cosmos is.
May all beings be well and safe, may they be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be,
Whether moving or standing still, without exception,
Whether large, great, middling, or small, whether tiny or substantial,
Whether seen or unseen,
Whether living near or far,
Born or unborn;
May all beings be happy.
Let none deceive or despise another anywhere. Let none wish harm to another, in anger or in hate.
- I make plans, but I remain flexible and open to the surprises that life has in store for me. I try to say “yes” as often as possible.
- I cultivate patience, and by doing so I also cultivate self-confidence.
- I welcome the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone, and I do not let myself be guided by fear.
- I love myself unconditionally, because it’s essential to my happiness. I love the person that I am, and I do not need other people’s approval to love myself fully.
- I’m going to drink water, eat fruit and vegetables, walk, take the stairs, exercise. Today I’m giving love to my body.
- I give everywhere I go, even if only a smile, a compliment, or my full attention. Listening is the best gift I can give to those around me.
- I try to be impeccable with my word, and to speak only to spread positivity It’s counterproductive to my happiness to speak against myself or against others.
What does it mean to identify? Is it how close you are to the other members of the group? Is it how important this characteristic is to you, and how it affects your thoughts and feelings? Is it how important this characteristic is to society, and how people treat you? Is it how proud we are to be it? Is it the degree to which we attach it to our personality?
It’s interesting to see the words that people choose to identify themselves, and also what they identify with more. We all choose our own ways to describe ourselves. This is how I identify, with stronger items that are more core to my being at the top of the list. Some items on the list refer to a mindset, which is just as important as tangible conditions.
- I am a part of the world.
- I am transient (*mortal).
- I am an earthling.
- I am human.
- I believe in love. I believe in loving all beings, in love’s power to conquer all, and I’m a pacifist.
- I am open.
- I am female.
- I am a young adult.
- I am middle-class.
- I am the child of immigrants.
- I am an optimist.
- I am inquisitive.
- I am intellectual.
- I am independent.
- I am creative.
- I am adventurous.
- I am a biker.
- I am an environmentalist.
- I am a US citizen.
- I am black**.
- I am tall.
- I am plain.
*I had an extensive conversation with a linguist-enthusiast friend about using transient to mean mortal. Mortal focuses on death and the end of life. Transient has a broader lens. It’s about existing in this world for a short time; passing through. It has larger implications: that this world, this experience, this dimension is perhaps not all there is. Of course, I mean this in the Stephen Hawking/ Rick&Morty way, not in the heaven/hell way.
**I realize that this is shockingly low on the list, especially compared to how high on the list “female” is. Racially, I’ve had a unique experience, I guess. A uniquely pleasant experience. Past the age of 8, I lived in mostly white communities. Affluent, educated, worldly white communities where I’m treated as an equal, a neighbor, a peer, a friend. I don’t expect prejudice when I interact with white people; I expect to be treated with respect. That’s an important distinction, I think: seeing racism as the exception, not the rule. The effect that this has on one’s mindset is profound.
I want honesty, openness, vulnerability. I want to be direct. I want to ask for what I want. I want to share how I feel. I want to know how you feel. I want to ask all the questions, even the hard questions that challenge my prejudices, my opinions, and the idea I have of who I am. I want you to ask the questions that linger on your tongue for fear of offending me, or getting hurt. I want to be REAL with people. I want to talk about pain and fear and dreams and hopes. I want to hear about your hard times, and what you learned from them. I want to be with you through your lows as well as your highs. I don’t want to hide under a social media mask that only shows the pretty, cool, impressive, successful parts of life. I want to value the less palatable experiences just as much, for I’ve learned that they have the potential to bring so much grace, patience, and understanding of people and the world at large. They offer a rare opportunity for true, deep connection between people. I have suffered alone too many times, and I know far too many people who have suffered alone as well. As Alan Watts said, “Just as manure fertilizes the plants, so the contemplation of death, and the acceptance of death is very highly generative of creating life. You get wonderful things out of that.”
I’ve failed a lot on my quest for more authentic relationships, and I’ve lost a couple of friends along the way. But I’m not giving up.
If you are aware of a state which you call “is”, or reality, or life, this implies another state called isn’t. Or illusion, or unreality, or nothingness or death. There it is. You can’t know one without the other. And so as to make life poignant, it’s always going to come to an end. That is exactly, don’t you see, what makes it lively. Liveliness is change, it is motion, and motion is going to fall out and be gone.
Everybody should do in their lifetime, sometime, two things. One is to consider death. To observe skulls and skeletons, and to wonder what it will be like to go to sleep and to never wake up, never. That is […] a very gloomy thing for contemplation. But it’s like manure. Just as manure fertilizes the plants and so on, so the contemplation of death, and the acceptance of death is very highly generative of creating life. You get wonderful things out of that.
(Quotes by Alan Watts. Song is “Hungry Ghost” by STRFKR.)
“I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
-Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet
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