Photo/Illutration A photo of Eiji Miyamoto, left, and his wife, Yoko, as newlyweds (Provided by Miyamoto)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KAWASAKI--In a poem she left behind at her bedside, Yoko Miyamoto prayed for just one healthy week to do some final things for her husband.

“God, please, get me out of this hospital room and give me seven healthy days,” Miyamoto wrote at the start of her poem titled “Seven Days.” “I want to stand in the kitchen on the first day and cook a lot of dishes. I will cook gyoza dumplings and ‘nikumiso’ (miso-flavored braised ground pork), your favorites. I will also have curry and stew frozen for you.”

Yoko, who had been battling cancer, died in January last year at age 70 before her wish could be granted.

Her husband, Eiji, 72, felt compelled to write the poem in a post published in The Asahi Shimbun’s “Koe” (voices) column, thanking his wife for their 52 years together.

The post has caused a nationwide sensation, followed by a book and a song inspired by the couple’s story.

The post appeared in the morning edition published by the leading newspaper’s Tokyo head office on March 9, 2018, and also in the morning edition published by its Osaka head office on March 25. It ran with a headline of the “Final ‘seven days’ my wife longed for,” citing lines from the poem.

“I thought she would be forgotten by everyone after the funeral was over and her belongings were put away,” Miyamoto said. “I can keep her memory alive for good if it is published in a newspaper.”

Eiji and Yoko met while in college before marrying in 1972. Blessed with children and grandchildren, the couple lived a modest and peaceful life in Kawasaki.

Four years ago, Yoko was diagnosed with stage IV small intestinal cancer. After she moved into a hospital room, the couple kept an exchange diary since February the following year to jot down their memories. They looked back on the half century they shared together and wrote down their thoughts and feelings.

As her disease progressed, Eiji wrote down what his wife said. Her poem was created through their exchanges.

After the post was published, it unexpectedly generated a huge response and was shared by about 190,000 people on social networking sites. Their story was turned into a book in the summer last year and went on to garner even more sympathetic responses.

The Asahi Shimbun has received more than 100 postcards from readers mainly in their 60s through 80s. Many of the senders could relate to Miyamoto’s grief, saying that they too had lost their wives.

The poem was also adapted into a song, which was released as a CD single in June this year.

Titled the same as the headline from the newspaper, the song was produced by Masatoshi Sakai, 84. He nurtured many stars such as Momoe Yamaguchi and Hiromi Go, while producing many great songs including “Momen no Handkerchief” (Cotton handkerchief) and “Iihi Tabidachi” (Leaving on a good day).

Sakai, who also worked on a 1964 song called “Ai to Shi wo Mitsumete” (Looking at love and death), which was inspired by correspondence between a young woman dying from a disease and her boyfriend, said he accepted the role of producer because he felt a “fateful” connection with the Miyamotos’ story.

The song is sung by chanson singer Kumiko with her mellow voice. She has been singing songs about disasters and war to deal with life and death.

“We don’t know when we will die,” the songstress said. “I put my thoughts into the song, encouraging listeners that we should become conscious of happiness surrounding us this very moment and live with each other.”

Eiji also shares a mutual feeling.

“The last conversation I had with Yoko was when we had dinner in her hospital room and she said, ‘You should eat first,’ and then I said, ‘OK, I will,” Miyamoto recalled. “She fell asleep and died at dawn. If I had known it would be our last meal together, I would have wanted to say, ‘thank you.’ ”

“Thank you” was also Yoko’s last message to Eiji.

“When I was putting away her belongings after she died, I found a notebook,” he added.

Yoko wrote in a meticulous manner: “It has been fun days since I met you … Thank you for the long time together. I have always loved you so much.”

* * *

The full text of Miyamoto’s post published in the “Koe” column is as follows:

In mid-January, my wife, Yoko, passed away. She left a poem titled “Seven Days” written in a notebook on the bedside in her hospital room.

“God, please get me out of this hospital room and give me seven healthy days. I want to stand in the kitchen on the first day and cook a lot of dishes. I will cook gyoza dumplings and nikumiso, your favorites. I will also have curry and stew frozen for you.”

My wife was hospitalized suddenly in November last year. She didn’t tidy up her belongings at home because she intended to return soon. She never came home.

In the poem, my wife said she would enjoy her hobby of knitting on the second day as much as she wanted, like finishing a scarf she had been working on. She would put away her belongings on the third day, and take me and our dog for a drive on the fourth day.

“Hakone might be good. We’d walk in the park where we used to go, holding hands.”

On the fifth day, she would prepare cakes and presents for 11 and host a birthday party for our children and grandchildren. On the sixth day, she would have a girls-only party at a karaoke parlor with her friends.

And on the seventh day: “You and me, just the two of us. Let’s spend some peaceful time in the room. Let’s talk about our long stories, putting on a Hakudo Otsuka CD.”

My wife’s wishes were not granted, except for the last scene from the poem: “I’d wait for the time to come quietly, quietly, while you hold my hand.”

Yoko. Thank you for the 52 years we spent together.