My Aunt Keiko Araya Kono has died.
About a week before we got to Japan in September, we learned that our aunt had been hospitalized. There was some sort of old person's day and my cousin Kenichi said she had wanted to go to lunch. When he went to her house, she wasn't at the door like she always was. He went inside and she was on the floor. He called the ambulance, and she was taken away to the hospital.
So she was in the hospital when we got there. And the three-and-a-half week we were there, she was alert, eating, talking and telling us that she was going to get well so she can visit us next year.
Because it during the height of the H1N1 flu scare, everyone going to visit a patient had to wear a face mask. It was to keep the patients as well as the visitors safe.
It was the first time I'd worn one of those face masks and it was so hot. I don't know how doctors and health professionals do wear them.
Anyway, when we got to Japan, the doctors really didn't know what was wrong with her. They knew she had a mass in her abdomen. While we were there, it turned out it was ovarian cancer.
I asked my mother why she didn't have a colonoscopy or PAP smear. My mother said Aunt Keiko had always been so healthy that the last time she had been in the hospital when she had Ken-chan, who is 62-years-old. She never, ever went to the doctor.
She was one of the amazing women ever. She was a single mother. In fact, Ken-chan was born after his father died. So she worked to support herself and her children, Noriko and Kenichi. Auntie worked at Mitsubishi in one of the Tokyo offices. Both Noriko and Ken-chan went to college. She saw both of them get married and have children.
She finally retired almost 30 years ago. But she kept busy. She took lessons to learn to play the shamisen, even taking part in community concerts. She took ballroom dance classes. We have pictures of her in those huge ballroom gowns with feathers and everything. She must have been 75 then!
After we came home, she apparently started to decline. Last week, when my mother spoke to Ken-chan, he said she had quit eating and was sleeping almost 24 hours a day. She had an IV feeding her.
My beloved Auntie died this morning at the age of 91. I'm going to miss her. My sister Dorothy and I always said she'd outlive us all. Not quite.
Now it's just my mother and Uncle Hide, the two youngest siblings left.
We (my siblings and I) are sending my mother to Japan for the funeral, which is Saturday. We really had no idea she'd be going back so soon. In fact, some of the things we bought were boxedup and shipped. I joked that she would be back in Tokyo before any of those boxes are delivered!
Because my youngest sister Patty is not working now, she's going with her. My mother just cannot manage dragging her luggage, going through customs and all of that by herself.
She'll get to Tokyo in time for the funeral Saturday.
We all have heavy hearts, but we know she led an adventurous, happy and fulfilling life. And she wasn't in any pain at the end.
My Aunt Keiko, at left, and my mother, Kazuko. This was taken in June, 2008.
Last month while Auntie was in the hospital. My mother was talking to her, showing her a picture.
The last two Araya siblings alive today. My Uncle Hide and his daughter, Izumi, are planning visit in the spring.