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2008年12月25日 (木)

がんを生きる:寄り添いびと/5止 結び直した父との絆

(Mainichi Japan) December 23, 2008

Living with cancer: a volunteer forges a bond with her father (Pt 6)

がんを生きる:寄り添いびと/5止 結び直した父との絆


At the Tokyo Suicide Prevention Center in Shinjuku-ku, a three-month volunteer training course comes to an end, and the 10 trainees now join the ranks of "befrienders," or volunteer telephone counselors.


"This is just the beginning," warns the founder of the Center, Akira Nishihara, 79, who has been diagnosed with terminal intestinal cancer himself.


Naomi, 38, is among the 10 volunteers. Her father, 69, passed away in her hometown in Akita this March.


The news of her father's cancer came in the form of a phone call from her mother last September: "Your father has terminal stomach cancer and only has six months to live." The news was all the more painful for the strained relationship between the two.



Since Naomi was young, her parents had been on bad terms, separating when she was in high school. She lived with her mother and younger sister, and became estranged from her father. After moving to Tokyo for work, she only saw him on her rare visits to Akita.


"We still have time," she thought, hoping to reforge the bond that she had lost with her father. She began a weekend schedule of catching the bullet train every Friday night, returning to Tokyo on the final train on Sunday evening.


Though at first, Naomi and her father both had some reservations, eventually, he began eagerly awaiting her visits. "When will you come next?" he would ask, and she would circle the dates on the calendar by his hospital bed. "Train fare adds up, doesn't it?" he would say, and give her some change. They would always part reluctantly with a high-five.


He also told her stories from his childhood: how he loved to run, how he and his younger brother would peddle fish and vegetables stacked on a two-wheel cart that they hauled around. They savored the time they had together.


While her father had never complained before, as his cancer progressed and the pain became unbearable, he screamed to her for help. She automatically held him in her arms, and was shocked to find that his body, once muscular from jogging, had wasted away.


"I'm sorry, I have to go," were Naomi's last words to her father, the day before he died. "Thank ... you ... take ... care ..." he whispered back.


"I wonder if I'll be able to run again in heaven." Remembering the words her father uttered in his hospital bed, Naomi and her mother decided to place a pair of sneakers and running outfit in her father's casket.


In the fall, Naomi arrived at the Suicide Prevention Center.


"Through my father's death, I realized I want to contribute in some way," she told the others of her motivation for becoming a counselor. Akita Prefecture, where she is from, has a high suicide rate. "Some day, I want to do a job in Akita that involves empathizing with people in pain."



On the last day of the training course, Nishihara and his wife, Yukiko, 74, visited a hospice in Tokyo for an interview. He wants to have as many options as possible in his final moments.


"I want to continue my work at the center for as long as I can, but I may eventually have to trouble you for your help," he told a doctor there. "What is the dying process? I want to reflect upon myself as I confront my remaining days."


It has been 30 years since the Suicide Prevention Center was established in Osaka. The seeds planted by Nishihara and his wife are being passed on to their colleagues, who will continue the work they have begun, helping lives flourish into the future.


毎日新聞 20081220日 東京朝刊


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