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Eulogy from a Husband

The outpouring of love and support from her family and friends these past 3 ½ years has been overwhelming-the gifts, dinners, visits, calls, and messages.  Satomi was moved to tears on many occasions when she realized just how much love was out there for her and our family.

We had a group of about a dozen women that sat with Satomi for hours to give me time to work and to clear my head.  Their friendship and care eased Satomi’s suffering and anxiety.  We cannot thank them enough.

Of these women, there are a few that went beyond anything imaginable-Irene Teh, Brenda Cole, and Tina Ray-your love is beyond question.  Sandra Anderson and Akemi Nakanishi-we love you too.  Your support and insight gave me the confidence to manage Satomi’s care.  We couldn’t have done it without all of you.

Satomi’s needs changed many priorities in our daily life but we were determined to maintain a stable home for our girls.  We relied upon my Mom and Dad, Satomi’s Mom, her sisters-Hiromi & Kiyomi-and their families, and her brother-Isao.  With their help, Kandice and Jillian still had an enjoyable childhood and continued to excel in school.

Our final thank you is for all those that read my blog.  On difficult days my only outlet was writing.  To see the number of people that visited and presumably read my posts was flattering and motivational.  I rarely felt alone.

Compassionate, loyal, dedicated, modest, and intelligent are all words that I’m sure most of you-and many of our previous speakers-would use to describe Satomi.  While I agree completely, there’s much more to the Satomi I knew.

I respected her and her abilities.  She was independent, strong, determined, and accomplished in all areas of her life.

  • A 1480 SAT and a full academic scholarship to USC;
  • A BS degree in Exercise Science and a second BS in Physical Therapy from Cal State Long Beach;
  • A State-licensed Physical Therapist teaching patients to walk after Strokes and other brain injuries;
  • A professionally recognized Odori dancer with over 30 years of training experience.
  • Actively served her community.
  • Purchased her first home on her own.

Now this was an impressive woman; all this and a sweet person too?  After our first date, I just didn’t understand how someone so wonderful could still be single.

Our dating life was a bit mysterious.  It seemed that everyone suspected we were dating but no one knew for sure.  Satomi and I played along mostly for entertainment value.  The truth is that our relationship was progressing but we didn’t discuss exclusivity.  Since we spent all our free time together, I really didn’t think it was necessary until one infamous Valentine’s Day.  I was out of town and called to wish her a happy Valentine’s Day.  She was elusive and distracted so I knew something was going on.  Our Satomi was on a date when she answered her phone.  I was shocked.  It bothered me for the rest of my trip.  Immediately upon my return, I expressed my love and asked her to see me exclusively.  Our devious Satomi made me squirm and didn’t give me an answer for an hour.  While initially painful, I was quite happy with the outcome.

After years of friendship and dating, I learned of the source of her strength and better appreciated her inner struggles.  She was not super-human but almost.  This wonderful woman has not always had it easy.

Satomi loved being a mother and looked forward to teaching our girls of her life experience.  We spoke about it often and agreed on parenting philosophy.

As our girls grew, it became quickly obvious that she had some unresolved childhood issues.  Apparently, she was forbidden from many activities because of her age or being a girl; only to see her twin sisters be allowed to participate in the same activities at a much younger age.  She was a bitter woman.

Whenever I was stupid enough to imply that girls had to have an earlier curfew than boys, you would have thought I ran over her dog.  “That attitude is sexist BS.  My girls can stay out as long as… blah, blah, blah.”

Apparently, we don’t completely agree on parenting philosophy.

As our girls reach their infamous teenage years, those decisions are now left completely to me.  But don’t worry-I’ll still have Satomi sitting on my shoulder venting her bitterness and influencing my choices, “…that’s sexist BS…”

As is common with most married couples, we became complacent and over the years, took each other for granted.  We were not unhappy but things were not as they once were.  But then she got sick.

It took cancer for me to realize that I had been selfish and just how lucky I was to be married to such a wonderful woman.  It should never have taken so much for me to see what was so obvious.

My taking over her medical care was very difficult for her.  She knew that I hated all bodily fluids and avoided needles religiously.  She naturally questioned my decisions and complained.  I wanted to strangle her almost daily.  As she worsened, she finally accepted my care and our relationship changed immediately.  Things were pleasant and supportive; there was no apprehension.  It took cancer for us to finally share a bond of unconditional love that we had always strived for.  I was so lucky to have found it, even for a short time.

Satomi and I have struggled over the last 3 ½ years to find something positive that can come from this experience.  I’m still not sure what that could be, but there are obvious lessons that can be had:

  • Take your health care seriously-Be prudent.  Don’t be fooled into thinking youth will save you.  Satomi was still in her thirties when she was diagnosed.
  • Don’t skip that mammogram.  One-in-eight women will be afflicted with breast cancer in their lifetime.  One-in-eight.  There are 300 people in this chapel now-that’s 18 women and 18 families that will have to live through the nightmare of cancer.  Early detection is key to survival.
  • Hope for the best but plan for the worst.  Prepare.  Insurance, a will, important papers, etc.  Don’t convince yourself into thinking you’re going to live forever.
  • Appreciate what you have.  Time brings complacency but risk of loss will open your eyes.  Don’t let it come to that.  Look at your lives and appreciate all that you have.
  • Live life and enjoy it.  You never know what tomorrow will bring.

Having her by my side made me a better man.  I was proud to call her my wife.

We were all so blessed to have had Satomi in our lives.  The girls and I will miss and love her forever.

Thank you all for joining us today.


Eulogy from Sisters

We saw Satom as independent, headstrong, and doing things her way.  We also  thought  that Satomi had like a “Napolean complex” or” Little Man’s syndrome”. She was small so she had to talk loud and be more forceful so people would listen. At least that is how we always viewed her as her younger sisters. Growing up, we never really felt close to Satomi. We didn’t have that much in common back then. She was always more into her studies and we were more into hair, make-up, and fashion.  But as we got older, married, and had children, we became a very close and a supportive family. We found that even if we were very different, we had the same values. No matter what happened, we were all there for each other.  It’s something, we guess, our parents taught us without even knowing it. All four of us were always very blessed because of our parents. Though Satomi suffered this terrible disease, she knew that she was more fortunate than most.

The last few months have been very difficult. To see Satomi deteriorate and become weaker and weaker was unbelievable.  We slowly started to surrender to the fact that she wasn’t going to be with us much longer.  During this time we saw just how many great people she befriended and came to know how much so many people truly loved her.

A friend of ours said that it is not the quantity of life that matters, but the quality.  Satomi’s life was cut too short, but she did the things that meant most to her. She married, had two beautiful girls who she was able to love and who loved her back. She was able to help people with her work as a physical therapist and you can see how many people she touched by all the love in this room.

Although her last few months she was bed ridden and she could not do the things she wanted, she never felt sorry for herself. That was so amazing we thought, but then again, that was Satom.

Satomi, we know that you did the best you could with this cancer, but we know that you could not do it anymore. It is very telling that just before you passed, you came to Kiyomi wearing your wedding gown with a big smile on your face. You waved good bye and asked for us to take care of your girls for you.  Though we will miss you deeply, Satomi, we are happy that you are no longer in pain and at peace.  We will take good care of your girls.

Satomi gave us all a gift. She gave us the gift of knowing that life is precious so never take it for granted. Her spirit will always be with us.

Our mom, Isao and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their love and support. But especially,

  • Tina Ray, thank you for sitting by Satomi and taking care of her day in and out.
  • Irene Teh and Brenda Cole, thank you for being by her side, being her best friend and making her last days as fun as it could be.
  • Sandra Anderson and Akemi Nakanishi, thank you for flying all the way out to LA, leaving your families to take care of Satomi
  • Joyce Wakatani, thank you for coming as often as you did and all your prayers
  • Sean Okamoto for taking care of Satomi.

~Hiromi & Kiyomi

Eulogy from a Fellow Dancer

My name is Grace Mizushima and I’ve known Satomi and her family for almost 40 years.  Our friendship started back in the early 1970’s when Satomi, her sisters and brother started “odori” or Japanese Classical Dance with Madam Hanayagi Tokuyae, our teacher or “oshosan” as we called her.

Satomi started dancing at a very young age and from the very beginning you could see that she had natural talent.  Because of her petite size, she literally looked like a little doll whenever she got dressed up in her kimono and put her make-up on.  Seeing her beautiful daughters today, reminds me of how cute and small she was when I first met her.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Japanese Classical Dance world, we basically had to learn a dance by watching and copying our teacher during lessons.  We then continue to practice each dance until we have memorized and mastered the dance well enough to perform it on stage.  As you can well imagine, no matter how prepared you are, sometimes your nerves get to you when you are performing and then you forget a step or two.  However, this rarely happened to Satomi.  She was usually the one we would go to if we forgot a certain step or move.

Our odori group was like a family because we would see each other quite often, not only at practice but at the various events and shows that we had to perform at.  In the early years we were lucky to dance at Disneyland and Dodger stadium.  During the summer, our tradition was to dance at the various kenjinkai picnics and Satomi and I were frequently paired up to dance together.  We also used to dance in the Nisei Week parade every year, and many times during the latter years of our oshosan’s career it became difficult for her to walk the whole parade route, so since Satomi and I were one of the remaining active Natori’s, we were many times asked to lead the group down the parade route.

Unfortunately, after our oshosan passed away in 2006, we have not had the chance to continue dancing and so we have not been able to see each other as much as we used to, except for each other’s weddings, baby showers and children’s birthday parties.  In fact, I had the privilege of dancing at Satomi and Sean’s wedding.

I was lucky to have had a chance to visit with Satomi in early February with my sister Kathy and friend  Noriko who also danced with Satomi and the last thing she said to us was, “I’m going to get better so that we can dance together again real soon.”

Although I am sad and heartbroken to lose a dear friend, I am glad that Satomi can now continue her dancing again with oshosan.


Eulogy from a Colleague

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.


Eulogy from a Friend

One would believe that Satomi had enough to do, but she found a need to try something new and joined The Nikkei Bridge – or “Bridge” for short.  It is a Japanese American community service organization that is dedicated to networking young adult members together as well as integrating them into the Nikkei community.

I had met Satomi a long time ago in 1985 when a close friend of mine invited her to go with him to our Junior prom in high school.  Back then, she went by her middle name, “Carol”, which she proudly stated was because of her being born on Christmas.

When I had met Carol again, it was at the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association’s Casino Night in 1995.  Bridge was helping to organize it for the first time and we were pretty nervous about the event.  I did not recruit the volunteers, so I was unsure of who was going to be working that night.  But, as I was walking around, I was surprised to see here there, dealing cards for the event.  I was recruiting as well for Bridge we were looking for young people to join as we were only two years old.  She quickly pointed out that she went by Satomi now and I obliged.  I encouraged her to join our group and that it would be a lot of fun.  During her time with Bridge, she was always interested in attending the community service events that included a Little Tokyo cleanup project called Little Tokyo Sparkle and the Children’s Day chibi-k runs.  She also enjoyed our group bike rides and beach parties and met her future husband, Sean, who was also a member.  Now, as much as we would like to take credit for turning Sean into a community service supporter, we all had a feeling that Satomi’s philanthropic drive had something to do with it.

In 1997, Satomi decided to increase her level of activity in the organization and ran for the position of Secretary and the following year as the Cultural Education Chair. Satomi took her leadership role seriously, never forgetting the purpose of our group-serving the community and our membership. She had a strong sense of dedication to all her duties, no matter how large or small. As Education Chair, Satomi shared her love of teaching. She created several new events that taught members new skills including ikebana and odori dancing for the upcoming Obon festivals. She also promoted investment strategy workshops. Satomi was also able to share the love of her profession in Physical Therapy through small clinics for members and at the Atomic Bomb survivor or Hibakusha clinics. The Bridge was very lucky to have such an intelligent and dedicated woman on their leadership board.

The best of all is that Bridge provided an opportunity for us to meet Satomi and become part of her family.  Those of us here who met Satomi through Bridge remember the great bond we created with her during our time within and outside the organization.  Our common interests and dedication to the Bridge goals had us sharing laughs, tears, arguments, and celebrations.  We attributed this to all the ups and downs that typical families share. This extended Bridge family is the legacy that will never forget her and she will be with us for the rest of our lives.

~Peggy & Ken