My amazing best friend now works in the Marketing and Communications department at the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Upon realizing that I have a blog in which I (barely) write in, she asked me if I wanted to participate in her “blog carnival” revolving around the question: Who do you prevent cancer for? I really hope I did this the right way…
I didn’t really plan on being horrendous at updating my blog once I got to London. The idea was for me to write more in it to let my family and friends know how life is going across the Pond, but I am kind of glad in some way that this entry is my first after starting this scary new experience. So here it goes: I prevent cancer for my Aunt Izumi.
Right before leaving for Europe, I celebrated my birthday. It was a sort of strange one as it was half spent packing my life into an embarrassing number of suitcases. I also noticed, though, that there was a bittersweet mood with the people around me. I was so shocked and disappointed with myself when I realized that I had spent practically the entire day not aware of the fact that it was also the 20th anniversary of my Aunt’s death.
My Aunt Izumi was my father’s older and only sister. He used to call her “big Lucy” after the Peanuts character. He told me he dubbed her with that title since she never let him get away with anything mischievous. I only know her from the hilarious stories I’ve been told by my father and my Uncle, the picture I have of her holding me when I was a baby, and the letter she wrote to me before she passed away.
She was brilliant, tough-skinned, incredibly hard-working, and the most generous, kind-hearted person. She lived to help others, yet never let anyone else walk all over her. She drove a hard bargain, and stuck to her beliefs.
As I was growing up, it was often said that I looked like Izumi. Looking back, I think I always felt some subconscious pressure to be like her, too. She constantly made everyone proud around her, and I felt like I needed to do the same. That didn’t particularly seep in as she was an incredibly disciplined student, and I spent more time dressing up in my mother’s skirts and parading around the house singing Opera than doing my homework.
She and my father both followed in the long line of scientists within the family (another link in the chain I broke). My father is a brilliant scientist in his own right, but still refers to Izumi as this unstoppable force that made her an incomparable researcher whom he never ceased to admire.
She was a firecracker. My Uncle fell in love with her, and of course, my Aunt made it hard for him to pursue her. She was incredibly frugal—even to the point of spending the minimum amount of money for a car. This mentality led to her owning a piece of crap car, with which she taught my mother how to drive. She was confident that this scrap-metal set of wheels was good enough, and urged my mother not to stress at the new experience. This low stress level wasn’t particularly achieved when the stick shift detach from the mechanism in the middle of a gear change. Completely unfazed, Izumi took the stick shift from my mother’s hands, plunged it back into mechanism and told my mom to proceed into the intersection.
The story which, I believe, sums up her character is when she and my Uncle moved to Germany. She struck up a deal with the movers that they would get 100 Marks to move a piano to their third floor apartment. The stairwell to the apartment was apparently so narrow and steep that when the movers arrived to the landing, they said they wanted 200 Marks extra for the added trouble. Izumi looked at the two men, and simply said “—take it back, then.” The thought of having to lug the piano back down the stairs exhausted the movers to the point that they changed their minds, placed the piano into the livingroom, took their 100 Marks and left.
When my lovely friend wrote to me about doing this blog post, it’s sad to say that I had to think about who I wanted to write about. No one wants to have options to the question: who of the people you know has battled with cancer? I even had a rather emotional, life-altering experience seven years ago when I lost another loved family member to Breast Cancer. So, why did I decide to write about a woman I barely even knew?
When I was a senior in high school, I was struggling with the decision of completely committing my life to music. Most of my friends from the music pre-college I went to on Saturdays either decided that there wasn’t enough money in music, or said their parents were forcing them to have a back-up degree in case the “music thing” didn’t work out. When I was struggling with this idea, my dad sat me down and (in a very Mulan-esque way) told me the story of a Samurai warrior who was preparing his men for battle. But in order to fully reach the goal he needed them to achieve, he said that there could not be any plan-B. If there was any other option lingering in the minds of his men, they wouldn’t fully commit to the goal. He said that this was the mindset Izumi followed. She knew what she wanted or needed to achieve, and without any hesitation went for it.
I was always brought up to work hard, but also to try to be as kind and helpful to others as possible. But one thing I had yet to learn was not everyone will do the same for me. I stepped into several situations where I was taken advantage of and hurt. When I found it hard to let these people, these friends, go, my parents sat me down and tried to consoled me. They said, “You are just like Izumi. She was always there to help others. But she never let anyone manipulate her to think she was any less important. She would have told you that your own happiness is too precious to be sacrificed for someone else.”
The day I left home, I was surprisingly calm. I got the airport, had a pint and a plate of fries with my parents while they reassured me everything was going to be fine. The moment we got to the security check point, I looked at my parents and burst into tears. With all the drama and stress that happened in the recent months, I never took the time to realize that I was absolutely terrified. It hit me like a wave. They held me and sent me on my way. While I was waiting in line and trying not to look suspiciously hysterical, I remembered the belated birthday card I had received from my Uncle earlier that afternoon. He wrote, “You are following the family tradition of finishing your undergraduate studies and then moving far away from home. Your parents did it, your Aunt Izumi did it, and now it is your turn.”
It would probably be pretty stupid to use a “Harry Potter”/”Star Wars” comparison here…yeah, it would be really cliché, but I am not creatively inclined to describe it in any other fashion. I’m not going to say that Izumi’s spirit has appeared to me and reached out for my hand to guide me through an obstacle. That would be a little too spiritual for my taste. But, I do believe even though I have never been able to sit and have that “girl talk” or receive her wisdom in person, Izumi will be a part of every instance in my life. It has been two decades since she passed away, but her soul has latched onto the hearts of every single person who has been touched by her radiance. I know that the people who loved her the most, be it her brother, her husband, her friends, or her colleagues, will always make sure that the soul and spirit of Izumi will always be fresh through the stories they tell, and by living their lives, making decisions that have been inspired by her.
I have just finished my second week of school and I am absolutely exhausted. There have been many times when I have looked at the projects I have added to my already busy schedule, and wondered why am I doing this? I could be in my room NETFLIXING! But then again…I know I got my incurable over-achieverness (that is definitely not a word) from Izumi, and there is nothing I can do about it.
While writing this blog, I realized I don’t even know what Izumi sounded like. I can only imagine her voice that told off the piano movers, or that whispered things to me when she held me in her arms. Izumi will always remain a wondrous mystery to me. She may have been taken away from us far too early, but she is far, far, far away from every being forgotten.
O.K. Cliché ending is over. I am relieved that my two week struggle to write this blog entry is done. So here, I raise my glass of effervescent Vitamin-C (…don’t make fun. It’s almost cold season, people and my college hall is a germ breeding ground) to IZUMI!