My loss of a Sibling
Alisa Kitazawa Snow, 2nd Place
It was a normal morning—6 years ago, 2004, and 5 days before Christmas. The night before, my whole family, including my 3-year-old sister, had decorated the tree. We were planning to make pancakes together that morning, but my sister wouldn’t wake up.
I should have known that it was really serious after my parents called 9-1-1, but I was only five. I didn’t know what sad occurrence would come the night after. I didn’t know it was a really, really big deal. Most of all, I didn’t know what it was like to lose a sibling. But after the announcement from all the doctors, I knew my life would never be the same again.
From December that year until March 2005, my family and our relatives and friends helped us hold her funerals in the U.S. and in Japan. It was the saddest thing that had ever happened in my life and my parent’s lives. We had an American type, or church funeral in the U.S., and we had a Japanese type, or Buddhist memorial service in Japan.
Many people my age that I know wish that their little sisters and brothers would just disappear. To anyone who says that, I say, “Never wish that. I know what it’s like, and it’s not fun.” And it really isn’t. There is nothing better in the world than having a little sister. Absolutely nothing at all.
My mother, being from Japan, has always wanted us to learn how to read, write, and speak Japanese, as well as learn the culture. I can now be a translator between my obaachan, my Japanese grandmother, and my American father because of what my mother has taught me. The Japanese culture has helped me with my loss, because I feel like I have the freedom to talk about my sister and how I feel about her. I can talk to my extended Japanese family, who are okay for me to talk about my sister. But I really wish that my sister could have been here to learn Japanese with me. She probably would have been a lot better than me by a long shot.
The loss of my Japanese-American sister has had a big impact on my family’s lives. Because our family is part Japanese, we do many things to help us deal with the loss of my little sister that most American families wouldn’t do. We have a whole room dedicated to her as a butsudan, or a home shrine. We also give her food and drink at every meal time. We talk to her and say special Buddhist prayers. We give her souvenirs whenever we go on a trip- to Hawaii or to the Jelly Belly factory-we always get her a souvenir. When we go on trips, we take other souvenirs that remind us of her, like a small turtle magnet or a tiny angel doll with us. These are ways that we use to symbolize my sister. It feels like she is traveling with us.
Through the years, life has gotten more and more difficult, as well as challenging. Learning Japanese, education, money, and friends occupy part of my time, and my busy schedule has gotten part of my mind off of my sister. Because of these challenges, at times I think about her, and at other times I don’t. However, when I think about her and have feelings, I don’t have too many people I can feel comfortable talking to when I am in the U.S. When I’m in Japan, my relatives and friends ask me often how I am feeling about my sister. Being Asian has helped me deal with my feelings about my sister because I don’t have to pretend that my life is always perfect. I have the freedom to remember my sister and talk about her because I am Asian. I hope to remember and cherish the memories of my sister, and to do so, I intend to continue to treasure Japanese culture and language in me.