One day he was asleep, and she tiptoed in right beside him, bent over and laid her cheek on his. He was now awake but feigned sleep and heard her whisper: “Ah! The lovely smell of my daddy.” Nagai (na-guy) goes on: “You might suppose that a man with leukemia is cold-blooded, but my blood coursed hot through my veins when I heard that pathetic cry. I knew my death couldn’t be far off, and I saw little Kayano in my fantasy coming home from my funeral, now fatherless and motherless… and burying her face in my mattress for one last ‘smell of my daddy.” Nagai was getting busier during the day as visitors increased and his illness progressed. The two to three years that he had been given to live was almost up. How would his children be affected by his death? He decided to write down all the things he wanted to tell them in the hope that it would help them when they could understand. These jottings were to become two best-selling books… A Song for Nagasaki is the story of a Japanese man who survived the atomic bomb, but lost his wife, and experienced a slow death from the radiation. As a convert to the faith he would discover what it really meant to live the beatitudes and find happiness in the midst of tremendous loss, suffering, and mourning.
These are the words he wrote to his children before he died: “You are small children and have already lost your mother. That is an irreplaceable loss. A father’s death is not anywhere near the loss of a mother. My death will leave you orphans, vulnerable and alone in the world. You will weep. Yes, you might even weep your hearts out, and that will be good – provided you weep before your Father in heaven. We have it on the authority of his Son, and I have experienced the truth of it personally: ‘Happy are those who weep, for they shall be comforted.’ Spill your tears before him, and he will always dry them. That is the Sermon on the Mount, the place where you can find all the answers. Climbing this mountain can be hard-going, and at times through mists, rain and snow. But when the mists and clouds lift, what a vista of beauty, peace, and love! Yes, a vista of the values that last and give meaning to our lives and worth to our struggles. Right now, all I have to leave you in the way of possessions is this hut. Ah! But Jesus tells us to love our eternal selves rather than our material possessions. Yes, each of us is a child of the heavenly Father! That gives us tremendous worth. Do you realize that you are of more worth in your Father’s eyes than that beautiful bright star that keeps our earth alive, the sun? You are his very own son and daughter, and so are all the people around you. Love everyone and trust his Providence, and you will find peace. I have tried it and can assure it is so.
“I must be honest with you, my children. You will drink a bitter chalice as orphans. You will have to struggle against the temptation of resentment toward your school friends who have mother and father and against the subtle temptations of coldly resigning yourselves, with a mistaken sense of independence to that dark and dismal unbeliever called fatalism. Don’t live negatively by blind fate but live meaningfully and lovingly and experience the Father’s personal Providence. He has asked the three of us to accept a bitter drink. This is our ‘way’ to peace and to participation in his great plan, the one Jesus saw when he spoke of the lilies of the field and of the sparrows that are precious in the eyes of the Father. As a doctor, I sometimes had to give bitter medicine. I didn’t say: Poor child, suffering so! Let’s give him some sweet juice! You understand that, don’t you? We believe in a greater God who doesn’t’ dole out chap syrup but gives us the cleansing, healing, nourishing waters of life. Sometimes they seem bitter because our taste is sick. But persevere! He is fitting us for eternal companionship with him and our loved ones in heaven.
Nagai teaches us that it is ok to weep; it is good to weep, so long as we weep in the arms of our Father in heaven. “Spill your tears before him, and he will always dry them.” He teaches us that in this life we will experience great suffering, but through it all, if we remain faithful, we will come to know the Lord. The beatitudes promise us with each suffering, with each experience of poverty, with each instance of hungering and thirsting for things to be right, with each moment of showing mercy and making peace, and enduring persecution for the sake of righteousness, we inherit the kingdom of God.
Have you experienced any great loss in your life? Is there a bitter chalice that you have been asked to drink? Allow yourself the privilege of weeping before the Father. Go before him in your room, or in the church, or in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, or in the arms of your husband or wife or your priest or someone that is an image of God’s love for you. Let him comfort you and console you. Let yourself be vulnerable enough to weep uncontrollably.
When you’ve wept in the arms of the Father, you can then become comfort for others.
Nagai had become well known and famous people from around the world came to see him. After meeting Helen Keller, who through an illness in her childhood left her blind and deaf, he wrote: “Unless you have suffered and wept, you really don’t understand what compassion is, nor can you give comfort to someone who is suffering. If you haven’t cried, you can’t dry another’s eyes. Unless you’ve walked in darkness, you can’t help wanderers find the way. Unless you’ve looked into the eyes of menacing death and felt its hot breath, you can’t help another rise from the dead and taste anew the joy of being alive.”
Nagai had tasted death and was able to share with his children, and all of us, the joy of being alive. In his weeping and sorrow, he experienced the comfort only our Lord can give. He lived the beatitudes and he became that comfort and person of great happiness for others.
Let yourself weep, though it may be terrifying to let it go, weep before the Lord and let yourself be comforted by the Father. Having wept and mourned and experienced the comfort that only God can bring. This will allow you to become a comfort to many others who deep down yearn for the opportunity to weep. And in the midst of this weeping and comforting the kingdom of God appears in our midst. Death is conquered and the joy of being alive is discovered.
“The Song for Nagasaki” is a truly beautiful and moving book and is available locally here at Grismer’s as well as Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Song-Nagasaki-Takashi-Nagai-Scientist-Survivor/dp/158617343X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1296274296&sr=1-1