This photo speaks volumes. In simple terms it speaks of a boy who is etching the letters from a gravesite. Little does the casual observer know the incredible story behind this photo. The boy who is doing the etching was granted another chance at life. The woman of whose headstone is being engraved did not get such a chance. It was 1918, Masue Kaizuka had newly immigrated to the United States with her husband, leaving her son, aged 3 at home in Kada, Wakayama, Japan to be raised by his grandmother until they could make enough money to send for him. Sadly, that dream was cut short as after caring for the children of her community members who fell ill from the influenza virus, mostly from Wakayama, she contracted the disease and died on November 8th, 1918. Her son, Masao, came to The United States on a barge by himself at age 11, 6 years after his mother was put to rest in this Japanese cemetery in Vacaville, CA. He fended for himself and made a life. A beautiful life. He had a beautiful wife and 3 sons. The boy in the photo is the grandson of his eldest son. Nearly two years ago, this handsome boy survived a tragic accident in which he incurred a traumatic brain injury. If it weren’t for the fact that he was born now, lived in The United States, near an incredible trauma center and was the recipient of the very best of the best that neurosurgery had to offer in 2010, he would not be here, etching the letters of his great great grandmother’s headstone and honoring her.
Funny how life is. If it was she that was born now, most likely she would have survived. And if it were he that had incurred his injury in 1918, he would have not survived. As the mom of this darling and courageous boy, I’m grateful for the life that my great grandmother sacrificed for us. We are forever grateful for you. I’m also so grateful that my son was given another chance to live. Yes, beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. Today, I smile at the beauty that lies before me in this photo. Such sadness, sorrow, grief, and true beauty. Yet I can’t help but to feel so blessed.