Sow. Cultivate. Bloom.

An online journal of an uprooted life.

1000 Paper Cranes and Counting…

In early April I found out my Mom has breast cancer. In May I started a 1000 paper crane project as a way to feel like I was doing something since I am so far away. I didn’t know if it would be possible to make it to the 1000 mark before she finished chemo but lo and behold, we’ve surpassed 1000. We are almost to the 1400 mark.

So, let me tell you a little story.

The day after I found out my Mom has cancer, my oldest childhood friend emailed me. She was simply emailing to check in and see what I’ve been doing and how life is now that I’m an expat. The timing was so odd. Since then we’ve exchanged many an email. I told her of my fears, my struggles and of my triumphs. Sometime during our email correspondence I mentioned the 1000 paper crane project and asked if she’d want to contribute. The next email indicated she’d made 103 and that they were on their way to my Mom.

Fast forward a couple weeks and she emailed again. Little did I know, that around the time I’d first told her about my idea, she had sent a letter to our old neighborhood in Japan where we both grew up. She detailed to me, in words and pictures, how the old neighborhood had gotten together and rallied to fold 580 cranes for Mom. Even just writing about this now, I am tearing up. The last time my family and I saw our neighbors was 23 years ago when we left Japan. They included pictures of our old house, neighborhood and a picture of the women who had folded the cranes and or my childhood friend’s parents folding, too.

To say I was taken aback is an understatement. I cried with awe, gratitude and disbelief. I still tear up.

The women wrote a letter and here is what it said:

Dear Mrs. S,
We learned about your illness from M and that you have been going through the chemo therapy treatment. From thousands of miles away from you in Japan,in Iwakuni, we folded these cranes for you with our hearts, wishing you fast recovery. As we folded these cranes, we–your neighbors from Sakuragaoka–cherished so many good memories with you and your family when our children were still small.

Please don’t give up and take the best out of the treatment, we very much wishing you a full recovery.

Your neighbors of Sakuragaoka

If this isn’t beautiful, I don’t know what is. I still cry when I read the letter and look at the pictures. I never expected such an outpouring and here it is. The full credit must go to the class I had the privilege to teach for 2 years in a row. Last school year I simply shared a passion of mine, origami, and they let me make it into literacy, math and art lessons. I hung their 1000 paper cranes at the Sadako statue in Seattle with great pride and a tear in my eye last summer. If not for them, I might not have had the eureka moment to try to pay it forward to my Mom.


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