Special for This Month (Feb. 2004) [Goodbye Dad]

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This January 18th, my father-in-law, Myron McFarland, 80, passed away from cancer.
I've learned a lot through him, who was a typical American good citizen.
Also it was the first time for me to watch a person pass away, and I was deeply impressed by the wonder and preciousness of a life. Please allow me to share this private story with you in this page.

{ life, tangible thing}: body of living creature
{ heart, to change the meaning in this case}: spirit

Part 1 : American Paternal Love

In his later days, Myron said that he wished to be a forest ranger living in a forest, as he did at his youth, if he could choose another life. But actually he became a lucky and happy father, succeeding in the agricultural business his grandpa had started after coming back from WW2, moving and opening his new business, devoting his efforts for the local society, enjoying traveling abroad and fishing with his loved wife and friends.

He'd always been a good support for his children and grandchildren including in-laws like me, listening to each one's talk, sometimes questioning relevantly, and inspiring them to find their ways by themselves. Many of his funeral guests seemed to like his calm, cool and practical attitude always without forgetting humor. 16 years ago, one of his sons chose his wife as older and with physical difficulties besides being a foreigner, who couldn't understand English almost at all. That was I, but Mr. and Mrs. Myron welcomed her to their family with big smiles, trusting their son. They looked like liberally living in an ideal American democracy, not allowing prejudice and discrimination in their minds

Myron usually always smiled but just once I upset him, showing blue veins on his forehead. It was almost ten years ago, Enola Gay happened to be the topic of our conversation, and I said
"Was it necessary to drop the atomic bombs?"
I was going to continue to say
'I read that Gen. McArthur and Eisenhower knew Japan had no fighting fuel any more at that time, and denied the necessity of the bombs there...'
But I closed my mouth feeling overawed by the sudden change of his face.
"If we didn't use the bombs, the Japanese would have fought until the last person, also more thousands of U.S. soldiers could be killed. The bombs saved both Japanese and American lives, and gave democracy to the Japanese people, making the imperial militarism end"
Myron asserted trying to calm down from his anger.

I was shocked by the big difference between our thoughts according to each other's status and knowledge. I also realized that a conversation is hard to be hold when a thought is accompanied by strong emotion, even for this open-minded gentle Myron.
WW2 happened just as he was starting out in life.
He joined it as his duty and patriotism, believing it was in the cause of justice. He kept thinking he had to lose his life in Japan, if without the bombs. So he had to hear my question as
'Did they massacre the people for the nation to take hegemony over the global world later?'
and had to feel like mud had been thrown against his pure blossom.

The slogan of his troop was "Iron On The Target", and it could continue to encourage his business even after the war to survive in the free competitive society. But this slogan has been scary for me. Because my real father was included in their target, and was sunk at sea although not by Myron personally; then I lived my whole life as a child who had never seen her father.

I got confused trying to understand that my bright, gentle and manly father-in-law symbolizing America in my mind had been my parent's enemy. It brought me a chance to think deeper about global relationships. Persons who would never want to fight each other in their personal relations have to fight to the death under nations: that is a war. I don't want to have a grudge or an inferiority complex against winners, even if they are lacking imagination for the pain of losers. Soldiers who won at a war also went through the deadly experience.
If accusing persons about the past unfairness of their country, perhaps it would make them uncomfortable or depressed.

As a person who knows the pain of war from having been born in the middle of one, I don't want to repeat such history. It is very important to be sure that what is claimed to be justice is good for the global world or not. Real justice is made by building channels to let real truth flow, not walls that allow only selected information or lighting up only a single direction.

The culture of pushing forward seeking a light looks paternally tough. While Japanese people were making a circle in each local area, joining hands, Americans have set each target and challenged themseives to expand outward. Traditional Japanese people tend to close their mind to the outside, but Americans tend to open their hearts only to their front, not to their back, where their footsteps are. The roots of such tendencies of cultural directions might be very deep.

The ancestors of the McFarlands seemed to be Celtic. They lost their rock castle in Loch Lomond, Scotland, and moved to Ireland. Then escaping from that severe nature and the potato famine, they went over to America.
Myron's great-grandfather was born and educated in the east,
changed various occupations, and finally bought a wild land in the central valley of California to open farmland and create a town.

Perhaps the majority of Americans' ancestors must have emerged from similar ordeals; and won their economic richness. Europeans and Japanese people often say that America doesn't have their tradition, but seeking an ideal world, pioneering and always looking for a change: the intangible spirit is their tradition since even before coming over to America. Their culture always looking to advancing has been handed down from generation to generation no matter what the races are. Although Myron wasn't optimistic for the future of that way in the evening of his life.

The global society is chaos with groups facing varied directions. Can't we communicate feeling each other nicely, holding exclusive complexity as it is? When the paternal American culture leads the world, isn't maternal love also needed? To link people and societies, beyond the directions and logics.
America has led the woman's liberation movement, too. But it makes a more and more manlike society. Maternal liberation must save the world for harmony. It's liberation of each maternal heart of all individuals: not only women, being receptive of exclusive ideas and things to see from the other side and to get the total vision, reopening their natural feelings, not only depending on simple measurements of money and numerals. For instance, it feels cooking and cleaning are like methods to endlessly bring curiosity, creations and joy, instead of regarding them as duty or time and labor for money. These hearts can link people bridging varied ways of living, I believe.

When I started to build Earth Language, I tried hard to be logical for it. But recently I'm more concentrating to what I feel naturally. Not only referring to knowledge from books, but also learning through Myron's lively paternity, I've improved my ideas like the above.

Part2 The way of Death

Myron traveled to Alaska last September in the middle of cancer therapy. The last time for him to see great nature was when his family took him on a short walk with his wheelchair to Asilomar Beach in Monterey at Christmas time of 2003. Early this year, hearing that his condition had become terminal, it became too difficult to eat so he began to prepare for death, getting assistance from a hospice. His children and their spouses heard that he became too weak to stand any more and gathered to see him from all directions.

When we saw him, Myron looked much skinnier, his baldhead covered by a cap. But he was unexpectedly rosy in his face, putting in only a T-shirt and a sheet on his bed in the warm room. “You look cute with rosy cheeks” I said to him with a hug. He immediately replied, “You look cute, too.” He seemed not to lose his wit yet. Mom-in-law showed the hospice manual about the way of death to each of us. According to it, Myron could have a week more, we felt.

My husband asked Myron if he had a dream recently, and Mom answered for him, winking at me saying, “Pardon me,” “Again he had the nightmare of killing a Jap.” Even happy Myron seemed to have had a 60 year nightmare that is known among his family, except me. Myron told me the detail, “A night in the Philippines, in a trench, when I was putting bullets in a rifle, a Japanese soldier attacked me with a bayonet from above. Their bayonets were long like spears, and ours were short like knives. I couldn’t win with that way, and I got my pistol from my waist, and shot him.” He changed the WW2 era word into properly “Japanese soldier.”

My husband changed the topic from that dark time into Myron’s childhood story. Myron had always been a good storyteller, and he told his old story taking time. He seemed to have difficulty to speak because of his mouth pain. Sis-in-law got the idea to put little pieces of ice in his mouth, and Brother-in-law bought an ice shaver for it. Myron liked that way. Usually this kind of time in Japan must be wettish and noiseless, but not in this family. They laughed out loud a lot on the side of sleeping Dad, telling about memories of their old days, and making jokes.

Next morning, surprisingly Myron was looking at the day’s newspaper. “Can you read without glasses?” I asked, I knew he could do a half year ago though. “Yes, I can” He mischievously smiled. He might have two weeks more, since having the will to read newspaper, … carelessly I thought. Now I imagine he was pretending it among his children as his old daily life. I was often putting his foot between my hands, trying to send earthen Chi-energy from my palm to his arch, standing in the way learnt from Forest. At the same time, I felt his temperature and pulse. Those were a little warmer and faster than me, but the rhythm of the pulse was steadily constant. The family decided to watch him in relay for a while.

While putting 1/3 teaspoon of shaved ice in his mouth each time he needed it, I remembered that I also couldn’t speak without wetting my mouth when I got deadly high fever last year with no saliva at all. Later it must be hard even only to ask for ice vocally for him. Then I instantly made a sign to ask for ice, just changing the shape of his hand on his chest, simplified from ice-sign in Earth Language. “When you do this, ice will come into your mouth, okay?” I told him, and Myron smiled.

Afternoon, Myron’s 30 year fishing friend came with his photos of their fishing trip. Myron took morphine to kill pain, and applied special cream on his lips by himself, and sometimes getting ice from me, enjoyed their retrospective conversation, seeing the photos. In the middle of Myron’s speaking, we sometimes wondered if he fell in sleep. But after a long pause, he continued. His pronunciation was a little more unclear than yesterday. After the event, his nurse’s aid came to clean his body and changed his shirt and his facing direction to protect from rashes.

I was going a little away, thinking he wanted to have a rest, but he asked me for ice again vocally, forgetting the sign. I guess sign/language kinds of things can’t work well until customized. I wished we could use it earlier. Myron opened his mouth three times continuously for ice just like a chick waiting for feed from its parent bird. Then he said to me, “Thank you. You’ve been so nice to me.” I wished immediately to say, “YOU’ve been so nice to me.” But I lost my voice from almost crying, feeling too grateful for his choice of word, “nice,” instead of ‘kind’ or ‘gentle,’ even though I’ve never told the story about 1) to him. After a little while, he coughed, and I gently rubbed his back. He seemed to like it, and I continued it until he made the breathing sound of sleep. I never imagined that would become his last communication in this world.

My husband and I returned from the hotel early the next morning, and heard that Myron had not awoken at all. I wrapped his foot in my hands again, and it felt very warm and the pulse was faster. The interval of his breath was longer; also the skin lost the lively color. The nurse came, and we learnt how to care for him under the unconscious condition from her. She said she wasn’t sure how long Myron could live, but he might be able to hear sounds, even without any answer. Hearing this, the family members were indeed in English literary culture; they spoke to him how much they loved him one after another.

The breathing interval gradually became irregular, and sometimes his breathing sound stopped for six/seven seconds before noon; his fingers turned purplish. His face didn’t look so hard, but less oxygen was clear. I was gently rubbing his fingers and hands. Then he voicelessly moved his mouth as o-u-o-u. While I was continuing rubbing, he did it three times. He might have been trying to say, “Thanks, see you later!” to his wife and family.

While I was starting to work in the kitchen for the family, the others turned his body on the other side together. Then I was called too, asking me to check his pulse in my way. I tried to find its warmth but it had no pulse. I looked at Myron’s face to find no breath. It was 12.30 p.m. I couldn’t believe it, and kept holding his foot. The warmness was vanishing quickly. Someone tried to close his mouth, but it naturally opened again.

It was the same body as minutes ago, and yet looked completely different by breathing or not. As the body temperature got down, it became not like a living creature, but like an elaborate statue made of the material from other world. The color changed into deep but sullen yellowish like an old vegetable candle, and didn’t look like the blood was still under it. Its face looked emancipated from all emotions and thoughts; and was in heavenly calmness and peace. While others were in tears giving the body farewell words, I just couldn’t move away from its feet, being fascinated by the beauty of its face.

When a baby was born, it surprisingly looked like an ugly red chunk, but the face transfigured so quickly by each breath into something lively and lovely, filling up with growing energy and emotions. My eyes were glued to it too in the wonder of life. Now the dead body impressed me to glue my eyes to it. The peaceful expression of the face might be for seeing off its spirit into eternity. I wondered if anybody could be like this, purified by death. The image eased me; also I felt more precious for daily lives with various feelings in this world.

However American culture didn’t make me stay with the body too long, as Japanese custom keeping vigil the whole night over. Cared for by the hospice, no postmortem examination needed; and morticians took the body away in a moment for preservation process and making it up for the funeral. The time with death was too short for me. Most of the family didn’t even see the body off, not to remember Myron as the dead body.

The culture that hates to see negative things, Myron, you handed this down too to your family, didn’t you? But is a natural death a negative thing? If you are truly positive, why do you regard something as negative? The blue sky spread out of the window in the empty room. “Goodbye Dad, from now on whenever I’d like to communicate with you, you’ll be there.”

Written by Yoshiko McFarland (Feb. 1st, '04)
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