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Eulogy from a Colleague

by on March 26, 2011

I first met Satomi in June of 2003.  I had left a job in Los Angeles that I loved and was starting fresh in a new place – I was scared.  In my first anxiety-ridden days at HTRH Satomi extended a kind smile and a helping hand and went out of her way to make me feel welcome.  It was the first of her many kindnesses that I would witness.

As many of you know, Satomi had a very long history at HTRH.  She was there long before I was.  She was there before it actually was HealthSouth, having witnessed several transitions in ownership.  She was an inaugural member of the hospital’s Stroke Team, served as a supervisor of the Transitional Care Unit and most recently she filled a very unique role as our only Seating and Positioning Specialist.  Suffice it to say, her contributions over a number of years have helped to make our hospital the fine and respected institution it is today.

I thought it best to honor her contributions by sharing some recent remembrances of several of her peers:

One therapist, who studied under Satomi talked about what a good leader she was and how she was always confident about her work.  Satomi was calm under fire and would always say “don’t worry – it can be handled”.  Very comforting words for a student-therapist still finding their way in the therapy world.

One of our technicians who used to assist Satomi in the Seating clinic fondly remembered how Satomi “had a funny way of calling my name.  It always made me laugh.”

Another therapist who had been injured on the job had been treated by Satomi in our OP clinic for his back injury.  He said that he always appreciated her directness and candor and indicated that he still remembers all the things she taught him.

One of our Case Managers remembered how much Satomi liked showing off her wedding album.

Many people at the hospital wondered how it was possible that such a tiny person could handle such big patients and how on earth could she make it look so easy?!

I think one of the thoughts that I heard that I liked most came from one of our Occupational Therapists who said “I remember her contagious laughter the most.  She was serious about her work, but enjoyed being here and making a difference.”

It may surprise many of you to know that Satomi had me out looking for a job for her as recently as October.  And for me that highlights one of the things that I admired most about her.  She is one of the few women that I have worked who was able to fully and successfully combine work and family.  It was clear to me how much she enjoyed being a wife and mother, but the quality of her work and the depth of her commitment to her work never suffered.  She was – through it all – a consummate professional.  Now I am not naïve enough to think that Satomi could have done all of this by herself, and so on behalf of the patients and employees of HTRH I say thank you to Sean, to Mr. and Mrs. Okamoto, and to Baachan for providing the support that Satomi needed to continue on as a critical part of our team.  Your selflessness and support allowed many, many patients to benefit from Satomi’s compassion and skill.

When Sean asked me to speak today I felt very humbled and grateful.  But after I thought about it for a while I started to get really nervous.  How do I say something that honors all of Satomi’s accomplishments and efforts?  How do I say something that maybe helps people feel better about what has happened or inspires them to see this situation in a different way?  As it turns out – there’s an app for that.  It’s called “55,000 Quotes” and I found just a few that I thought might fit the bill.

The first one I came across was a quote from Winston Churchill, who said “”I am ready to meet my maker.  Whether my maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”  It definitely made me smile, as I have always said that what Satomi lacked in size she more than made up for in attitude.

On the subject of loss American author, attorney, and disability rights activist Harriet McBryde Johnson had this to say:  “Death is natural and necessary, but not just.  It is a random force of nature; survival is equally accidental.  Each loss is an occasion to remember that survival is a gift.”

I think my thoughts about this terrible loss have been captured best by English poet David Harkins: “You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived.  You can close your eyes and pray she’ll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.  Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her, or you can be full of the love you shared.  You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.  You can remember her only that she is gone, or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.  You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back.  Or you can do what she’d want: smile, open your eyes, love, and go on.”

In closing I would like to say a thank you to Satomi.  Thank you, Little One, for showing me that hardship can be borne with optimism and dignity.  Thank you for reminding me that life is short, time is precious, and that pure expressions of kindness and love are the only things in life that really count. And thanks, most of all, for being my friend.

~Gretchin

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