Picture book memorializes lost sons

JIJI

“Thank you for being born to us” — this is a message from two mothers, who each lost a young son in a major disaster, in a picture book they published together this month.

In “Yasashii Akari ni Tsutsumarete,” (“Clad in a Gentle Light”), Chizu Takai, 52, and Saori Takezawa, 38, say that although their sorrow has never subsided, their other children have helped them to smile again.

The 8-month-old son of Takezawa, who lives in Sendai, was killed in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Takai, who lives in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, lost her 18-month-old son in the Great Hanshin Earthquake of January 1995.

On March 11, 2011, Takezawa and her husband, Morimasa, 46, left their only boy, Masato, at Saori’s family home in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, before going to work. After the massive tsunami hit the area, Saori’s father and grandmother were found dead. Her son and mother were never found.

Despite the despair of the couple, a baby girl was born to them in January 2012.”The sorrow never disappears, but I can smile again thanks to your smile.” Saori wanted to tell this to the daughter in a picture book so that she can understand.

After their daughter was born, Saori and her husband were looking online for people with similar experiences when they discovered Takai’s blog.

On Jan. 17, 1995, Takai lost her son, Sho, in the Hanshin quake. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you,” she often thought.

Takai created her first picture book to let Sho’s twin sisters know how precious they are to her. When the twins were in elementary school, they asked Takai, “Which one (Sho or us) should have died?”

Around spring 2012, Takai received an email from Saori and her husband. “They seemed desperate as they tried to live without Masato and her parents, something like I was,” Takai says.

Last year, Saori consulted Takai about her wish to make a picture book. Takai was already considering making one for her own daughters and lost son.

While sorrow continues to afflict Takai, the presence of her daughters has provided emotional support.