A Letter from Lancashire
by Tomonori Saito
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I still wonder why she did not tell me that she was a Christian even until the end.I will ask her that question when we meet each other again in heaven.
Marianne was my English writing teacher in my college days.
We had a decade long friendship until she deceased on January, 2007 after her long brave battle with cancer. Her class was challenging but was also very exciting.
Every student loved her as an energetic and a loving mentor.
She was very supportive when I suffered for a serious burn out syndrome and was happy to see me graduating from the college. For the last few years of her life, she spent a lot of times in a hospital and went through difficult surgeries. I, of course, visited her at a hospital in Tokyo. One day at my visit I found a small cross on her bedside desk. Back then, I was one of the 99% ofJapanese population who had no idea of Christianity.So I simply assumed the cross to be a part of British culture.
Fortunately, she later was able to return to her home land, Lancashire, UK. We kept in touch by Email, and I still remember how much it made me nervous when I was waiting for her reply.
I am still proud of her that she always came back as herself,
positive and even encouraging in spite of her health condition. Sadly, however, the day finally came. A friend of her sent me an Email notification about her funeral. The news was so devastating that I could not stop crying for days. Later, I decided to write a letter to her family in honor of my mentor, and I thanked of them for a decade of wonderful friendship she shared with me.
To my surprise, her relative actually wrote back to me. In a letter it was written that it was very comforting to know that in me, and in other students of her, Mariannefs example would live on. And it was also written that a true Christian she was, her faith sustained her to the end. The letter was closed with three words gGod bless youh. That was the first time in our 10 years friendship I found that she was actually a Christian.
Although I was not really familiar with such words like gfaithh, and gGodh, the letter left me with a positive impression of Christianity. Nonetheless, living in the world without her was much harder than I expected. The sudden termination of my dream to be a writer that a bankruptcy of a publisher brought was, among all, a fatal blow. A big gap between who I once aspired to be and who I ended up becoming of was beyond disappointing.
Japan is a strange country which never forgets to celebrate Christmas without caring about what makes the day special. I was no exception. I attended a Christmas gospel concert simply to get away with a stress of the work. Perhaps, I also subconsciously remembered about the cross and the words on the letter. Truth is, it was the Godfs timing to reveal his overwhelming presence to me through powerful worship songs during the concert. Then, I heard that words again at the end of the show, gGod bless youh. Long story short, today, I attend an international church in Tokyo and serve in an usher team every week. A discovery of my mentor being a Christian was a saving grace, and her example still helps me to deal with challenging situations.
Moreover, not only the hope of seeing her again in heaven, but also God gave me a second chance to pursue my dream again. I was able to publish articles about courageous people in the very language she taught me, such as a survivor of the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster who support people in Fukushima, and a French Canadian rock band who delivers songs of hope for those who try to find a life beyond illness and migration. They both mentioned of the same God. Today, I also write about Japanese musicians who live to create the moments of passions.
It is true that God works in mysterious ways.
How he can put together different peoplefs acts of kindness exceeds our imagination. Let us not underestimate how much
power simple acts of love and care have to save the others.
Although it is true that there is only 1% of Christian
population in Japan, I believe future can be different if we
decisively share what we are to offer.
I will keep carrying the torch God handed to me through her.
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