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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: In-Law(s) (05/08/08)

TITLE: Let the Dead Bury Their Own
By Peter Stone


“Welcome back, Rinako-san. Forgive me for troubling you with this,” said the elderly woman.

“Please do not apologise, Otsuka-san. You were right to bring this matter to my attention--I came as soon as I received your telegram,” Rinako replied.

“It is only because I saw your brother-in-law and his family skulk out of the city the day after the typhoon that I contacted you.”

Shamed, the younger woman bowed low. “And for that I thank you, Otsuka-san. It is the responsibility of my husband and I to care for his parents, now that his younger brother has departed, though I am indebted to you for caring for them this past week. And if you do not mind my asking, how did they catch this illness?”

“After the typhoon destroyed the town’s clean water supplies, your husband’s parents, along with many other townsfolk, fell sick from drinking brackish water.”

The elderly woman stepped aside, “They are waiting for you, Rinako-san.”

Leaving her geta-shoes in the foyer, Rinako shuffled soundlessly on split-toe tabi-socks into the tatami-floor room. Takashi and Miwako, her husband’s parents, lay sleeping on futons placed side-by-side. Rinako choked back tears upon observing their sunken cheeks and the unhealthy pallor of their skin.

They had seemed so much larger than life when she had last seen them, just on ten years ago. It seemed inconceivable that a mere illness could do this to them.

As Rinako moved over to kneel beside her mother-in-law, painful memories of when she and her husband had lived here with his parents crowded in upon her.

“Why did my son marry you, Rinako-san? Never before have I seen such a lazy and tardy wife! Why can’t you keep our house in order? Why can’t you be more like my younger son’s wife?” Miwako complained.

“Gomen nasai, Oka-san, I will try harder.”

Rinako’s knees creaked as she knelt, waking Miwako from her shallow slumber. “Oh, it is you--took your time getting here!”

“Gomen nasai, Oka-san. But I am here now,” replied Rinako as she offered Miwako a glass of clean water. She did not mention that she had travelled for five days on trains, busses and on foot, to get here.

“Can’t you control your son, Rinako-san? Is he dim-witted, or are you as ill suited to motherhood as you are to housework?”

Rinako grabbed a cloth and quickly wiped up the miso-soup that her toddler had spilt. “Gomen nasai, Oka-san, I will endeavour to be a better mother.”

“Still following that foreign religion?” said Miwako as she lowered her head to her pillow.

“Hai, Oka-san, we are still Christians.”


“You must speak with your husband, Rinako-san,” said Miwako one morning.

“On what matter, Oka-san?”

“As my eldest son, it is his responsibility to care for the family altar after we are gone. You must convince him to abandon Christianity.”

Rinako knelt and pressed her forehead to the floor. “Gomen nasai, Oka-san, but on this matter I cannot obey you. Your son and I follow Iesu-sama now, and His Word does not permit ancestor worship.”

“How long will you stay this time?” Miwako demanded as her daughter-in-law bathed her brow.

“Your son and grandson arrive in a few days, Oka-san, along with our clothes and valuables. From now on we will live with you and oto-san.”

“Is that so?”

Rinako’s husband placed an open Bible on her lap. “Faithful Rinako-san, I am mindful of the toll taken from you by living with my parents these past three years, but I have good news. I have accepted the invitation to pastor that church in Kyoto.”

“What has changed your mind, husband. You said we could not leave your parents.”

“They are sound in mind and body, Rinako-san, and my brother--the one my mother esteems--lives around the corner. Here, read Luke 9:60.”

“I see the words, husband, but what do they mean?”

“It means that unbelievers should look after their own. We Christians must proclaim the Good News about Iesu-sama.”

“What’s to stop you running off to serve your religion like last time, Rinako-san?”

“Ten years ago we served Iesu-sama by going to Kyoto. Now we serve Iesu-sama by looking after you and oto-san,” Rinako explained kindly.

“Huh! I would rather my younger son and his wife looks after us. I hope no ill has befallen them--we have not heard from them since the typhoon.”

“I am sure they are fine, Oka-san. Hush now and rest. I will tend to oto-san.”


Gomen nasai – sorry
Oka-san – mother or mother-in-law
Oto-san – father or father-in-law
Iesu-sama – Jesus


Luke 9:60 NIV Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

1 Timothy 5:8 NIV If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

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This article has been read 1236 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/15/08
This is truly poignant, a masterfully written story of Christian forgiveness.
Joanne Sher 05/16/08
Very descriptive, with excellent use of dialog. I love the flashbacks and such - masterfully done.
Dianne Janak05/16/08
Loved the use of flashbacks, and how there was such a change of heart. Forgiveness is powerful, and the world needs to see it in us. Great writing...
Debbie Wistrom05/16/08
I love the humility the daughter in law has.

Great title!
Dara Sorensen05/16/08
You did well with describing the culture and how important honoring one's parents and in-laws are. Good portrayal of family devotion and forgiveness.
Karen Wilber05/17/08
I love how you bring this around in a circle from beginning to end without pounding in the point. You let the reader think about what's happened as you tell the story. The characters felt real. Excellent story.
Lynda Schultz 05/17/08
An exceptional story with great truths and excellent character building.
LauraLee Shaw05/18/08
Incredible. Two messages in one well-written package--all while being perfectly on topic. Just incredible.
LaNaye Perkins05/18/08
I really like how you wove the fabric of this story together. You kept my interest from the title to the last sentence. Well done my friend.
Jan Ackerson 05/18/08
Masterfully written, as always! I get an education every time I read one of your stories.
Dave Wagner05/18/08
Excellent. I'm glad you left the mother-in-law who she was and didn't force her to change at the end. You left the stage wide open for her eyes to gradually open as her D-I-L cares for her. Very nicely done. I must admit, all of the foreign words and references made the reading a bit rough, but it's not really an issue, since I'm not sure they could be removed or adjusted in any way without ruining a lot of what you were trying to accomplish with the piece. All in all, it's very good, and I'm glad I read it.
Betty Castleberry05/19/08
While I was reading this, I could see it running in my head as a play. I think it would make a great one! Nicely done and great message.
Joshua Janoski05/20/08
Your knowledge of Japanese culture is outstanding, and it really makes this story believable in every way. Superb story! Thank you so much for sharing.
Mariane Holbrook 05/21/08
Peter, your fan club is growing by leaps and bounds. Everything you write is such a keeper, and this is is no exception. "Brilliant" doesn't adequately describe your work. I'll have to think of something else. Big time kudos!
Glynis Becker05/21/08
The descriptions, the use of language and flashbacks...it all makes for a beautiful story.
Lyn Churchyard05/21/08
The MC is so beautifully portrayed in the Japanese setting. So much love and warmth in this story. Another delightful read Peter... as usual.
Sara Harricharan 05/21/08
I felt so bad for Rinako, the way her MIL just seemed to look right through her. This was well done, the emotions and the dialog with the italics. Great job. ^_^
Joshua Janoski05/22/08
Congratulations on the EC! You are well deserving of it.
Betsy Markman05/22/08
A very unique perspective on the subject, and quite enjoyable to read.
LauraLee Shaw05/22/08
Congratulations, Peter!!!! Sooo happy for you each and every time you earn an EC!!!
Karen Deikun05/22/08
Another well-told story Peter. They just get better and better.
Janice Cartwright05/22/08
I could tell this was well-researched and you also did a wonderful job portraying the common ground true Christians stand on, no matter their background and culture.
Sheri Gordon05/23/08
Congratulations on your EC, Peter. This is absolutely incredible. Beautiful writing. Great cultural lesson. Excellent.