When I was a little girl, I was often left at home because my mother worked. She would go out while I was napping, and when I woke up before she came home, I was scared and anxious, crying even when I saw the dolls on display. I still remember how she came home at that time and treated me with so much affection when she saw me left all alone. Her presence was very important to me, even while she was doing ordinary things like cooking, cleaning, and washing clothes while she was working.
My mother wanted me to smoothly complete my studies, gain a few years of social experience, get married, and become independent from my parents. I do not think she expected more than that from me as a daughter. However, I had wanted to study in the U.S. since I was a teenager, and I could not tell her about my dream, nor did I want to bother her financially. I was secretly planning to get a job quickly, save money, and go to the U.S.
When I was in my mid-twenties, my mother, who wanted me to get married soon, came to me with an arranged marriage proposal. I had already decided on a specific university to which I would send my application, and in order not to make her sad, I was going to accept her proposal and then bring up the idea of studying abroad in the United States. The man said he wanted to continue our relationship, but I refused his offer and brought up the idea of studying in the U.S. to my parents. I think my mother was very shocked. Finally, my father said to my mother, "Let her do whatever she wants." His words helped my mother to prepare her heart to send me to the U.S. Despite not knowing anything about the U.S. or having any contacts there, I think my mother was committed to sending me, even knowing that I might die there.
I, on the other hand, never felt homesick and was enjoying my college life. One day, when I called home, my sister who answered the phone spoke hesitantly and was slow to respond. I felt something unusual, and she replied, "You know... Mom has cancer.” I felt like I was being pushed into an abyss. I told my mother that I would quit college and return home, but she said, "Even if you come back now, it won't help me with my own illness. You should finish and then come back.” From then on, I became quite homesick and woke up crying in the morning. I couldn't even call home because I was afraid that if I did, I would be told that my mother's condition became critical and near to death.
When I returned to Japan after graduation, my mother, who had lost her hair due to cancer treatment and was wearing a wig, welcomed me at the entrance. I had imagined my mother's death many times, so it was like being in a dream when I saw her alive.
She lived for another year and a half after that. When I visited the hospital with her, the doctor recommended that she be hospitalized while looking at the x-rays showing that the cancer had spread to her lungs. Knowing the pain of being in the hospital for so long, she was determined and chose to stay home until the end. One night, I woke up and found my mother sitting silently in the dark. When I talked to her, she replied in a stern tone, "You go back to sleep!” I think she was struggling with the fear of death.
I remember that when she was so close to death that it became difficult for her to go to the bathroom by herself, she said bitterly, "There is no God.” I think that is what my mother thought as she suffered day after day, even though she asked God to heal her illness. She also told us that we did not have to touch the Shinto altar in the house, i.e. to provide it with water and salt. I think she did not want her children to get involved in this kind of custom. When my mother died, I felt as if half of my body had been ripped off.
Five years after her death, I accepted Jesus Christ. I began attending church and came to know that Jesus Christ is the One who made us, loves us, and gives us eternal life. The more I became convinced of my salvation, the more I wondered what happened to my mother after her death, and it made me suffer so much. I am certain that at the time of her death, she was seeking the true God. I wished over and over again that Jesus had accepted that.
One of my motivations for sharing the gospel is my mother's death. I wished I had been saved first so I could have shared the gospel with my mother and had the assurance of her salvation. When I think of my mother, I can't help but share the gospel with others. How wonderful it is to have the assurance of salvation while you are still alive! I want as many people as possible to know this and experience God. I may not be able to give up this thought until I die.
Written by: Hiromi Hataji - ZOE Japan
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