Of all the household chores taught to her by her mother, there are none more soothing to replicate than the preparation and enjoyment of sweet miso soup in the morning. To both young 3-year-old Hana and her lonely father, miso is the connection to their loved one lost.
“Mom, I want to tell you this. It was me who made a whole lunch box. Are you surprised?
The day before the winter vacation, Daddy drank a lot of alcohol and overslept, unable to prepare a lunch box so that I could bring it to the after school childcare. Dad told me he would bring it later, but I thought that there was still enough time for me to prepare the food, so while Dad was soaking in the bath, I cooked for myself and prepared my lunch box.
I cooked the omelet that you taught me and the fried pork with salt and green pepper taught to me by dad. I also sprinkled furikake on the rice. I also promised dad that next time, I would clean up after finishing cooking.”
This is the story that little Hana tells her dead mother, Miss Yasutaka Chie, in Fukuoka, Japan.
Their story began in the summer of 2001, the summer that her father, Shingo and her mother, Chie were happily married. They celebrated their wedding day joyfully but with the looming knowledge that, just before the wedding, Chie had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Despite many objections from Shingo’s family, the couple decided to move out and start a life together on their own. After their wedding day, Singo stood side by side with his beloved wife to cope with any and all of the difficulties of life.
Her health slowly began to improve and then a miracle came to this small family… Chie found out that she was pregnant. But painfully, she once again faced a dilemma because the doctor said, if she was to give birth at this time, her cancer could come back and threaten her life.
For a woman who had always been a mother without a child, how could she abort her child? The decision was simple, Chie decided to keep her child and give birth to the baby.
In February 2003, Chie gave birth to her young daughter Hana and considered her to be the most precious gift that life had ever given her. But the happiness didn’t stay with her for long. When Hana was nine months old, the disease recurred and began to rapidly deteriorate her health. She could hardly do anything but lay in bed and contemplate the day she would have to leave this world, leaving her husband and child alone to fend for themselves, Chie was almost in desperation.
Hana was born in February 2003 to the joy and happiness of the whole family, but that happiness did not stay for long. When Hana was nine months old, the evil disease recurred and took Chie’s health away.
She often softened the truth when talking with her girl, she used to apologize to Hana for not holding and taking care of her as other mothers did. The young girl seemed to understand her mother’s suffering, so she did not cry and kept growing healthily.
Looking at her daughter, Chie kept wondering how to help her live on after she passed away. She eventually came to the decision to teach Hana to do all of the household chores that are usually her responsibility, so that she would be able to take care of herself even after her mother was gone. When Hana was 3 years old, Chie started teaching her to do small things like drying clothes, tidying up, cleaning surfaces, preparing things before going to school…
Although Hana was not entirely excited by the tasks at first and would routinely bump herself and clumsily drop things, Chie still persevered in teaching her daughter. She had Hana begin adhering to a daily schedule that mirrored her own.
The first dish Chie taught her to cook was miso soup.
On Hana’s 4th birthday, Chie gave her an apron with a message saying: “Knowing how to cook is important in your life. I will teach you how to handle knives and do household chores. Because only by having good health, can you take care of yourself, no matter what the future is, no matter where you are, you can live well.”
In 2008, Chie succumbed to her battle with cancer and died, her daughter Hana was just 5 years old. Her husband, the once strong man was completely distraught and fell into a deep depression. One morning, little Hana snuck into the kitchen on her tiptoes, wearing a strawberry apron and a lovely kind smile on her face. With a knife in one hand and the ingredients in the other, she started making miso soup. Her method was exactly the same as her mother’s and the soup had a familiar taste. Hana’s father’s mood was lifted with each passing waft of the familiar smell of his wife’s miso soup. It was Hana who gave him a new life. Through her smile and through her cooking. He began to change his life and work harder to take care of his daughter and get back on his feet. As he watched Hana grow up and continue to make miso soup, he believed that she could feel her mother’s presence in the taste of the food.
At Hana’s age, most children could barely comprehend the death of a parent and the pain connected to such a loss. However, Hana was not like other children. She looked the pain in the eye and made the most of the little time she had left. She learned from her mother and took in every lesson she ever gave her. It is within these lessons that she will keep her mother with her always, in the small things in her life, in the way she sweeps the floor, the way she folds the clothes and the way she cooks miso soup.
Hana remembered and did all of the household chores taught to her by her mom, skillfully and fluently. BUT it was the breakfast of sweet miso soup that saved her father’s heart.
“For Hana, I can do everything. If I make her sad, I will be the worst father.”
The story of little Hana is a message to parents that loving a child is to teach children to be independent of a young age, starting from the simplest things. This is the heartwarming story of love in the family, a source of endless strength to help each person battle the storm of life and come out stronger.