KONFRONTASI - When a doctor gave Shigeko Takemoari the grim prognosis after examining her daughter Yumi, she was devastated.
On Feb. 8, the doctor told her that Yumi was suffering the fourth relapse from the acute lymphatic leukemia that had plagued her for many years.
The chemotherapy that the teenager had undergone since her diagnosis six years earlier had left her with a loss of vision in her left eye and weakened bones.
It became increasingly difficult for her to urinate as the disease progressed.
New drugs she tried came with excruciating side effects. Yumi could not stop coughing and could not sleep. Her fever reached 42 degrees and never subsided.
One midnight two weeks later, Yumi, lying on the bed and looking up at the ceiling, told her mother that she had decided to end her long battle.
“Mom, I have had enough,” she said, referring to her chemotherapy treatments.
She decided to spend her remaining time being happy and smiling as much as possible rather than undergoing another agonizing bout that was akin to praying for a miracle.
Shigeko, 49, of Chiba's Hanamigawa Ward, replied, “Fine. Let’s take a good rest.”
Yumi spent her last days doing what she wanted to do, rather than staying in bed.
The family of four--Shigeko and her husband, Masayuki, 49, Yumi, and her sister, Honami, 21--went for a drive to the foot of Mount Fuji.
Yumi had a hamburger, her favorite food. She traveled to Tokyo Disneyland, where her family had repeatedly visited. She enjoyed chatting with her friends at her high school from which she was often absent due to her disease.
And she went to see her doctors, nurses and physical therapists who were involved in her treatment to express her gratitude for their hard work and efforts.
Yumi also chose her wardrobe for her last day in this world: a white shirt, light-gray vest and tartan-checkered skirt--the uniform for her high school that she loved attending.
Shortly after she submitted a notice that she would leave the school, her health rapidly deteriorated.
She managed to go see cherry trees in full bloom on the grounds of the back of her hospital with her mother, her last outing.
On the morning of April 20, when the cherry trees revealed their fresh green leaves after the blossoms had fallen, she closed her eyes for the final time with her family at her side. Yumi was 18.
When Shigeko tidied up the hospital room after her daughter’s passing, she discovered a light-blue envelope in the closet. Inside was her daughter’s hand-written letter asking her to watch Yumi’s last video, which she kept on her smartphone.
When she played it with Yumi’s body lying on the bed in the hospital room, the tune of “My Girl,” a song of the popular male idol group Arashi, rang out. It was one of Yumi’s favorite songs.
The video showed the lyrics of the song, though the word "you" was changed to “all of you."
“Even if I am too far away from you, I am into the future with full of memories/ When I close my eyes, the days I spent with all of you come to my mind,” the rearranged lyrics went.
The video showed numerous clips and pictures of Yumi's short life, including an athletic festival from her kindergarten, her junior high school graduation ceremony and family trips to Cape Inubosaki in Chiba Prefecture and Hokkaido.
With tears welling up in her eyes, Shigeko could not see anything.
The four-minute and 42-second video Yumi created for her family was made shortly after New Year’s Day, about a month before she was told that her leukemia had returned for the fourth time.
Shigeko watched the video on the 49th day after Yumi’s death and found the message she had left for the family in the video.
“I am so happy to be born as a daughter of Dad and Mom and a sister of Hona,” the message read, referring to her sister. “Thank you from Yu.”(Jft/Asahi Shimbun)