Coffee lovers: She drew the curtain on her life with her favorite coffee.


コーヒー     “Thank you for your kindness to my mother while she was alive. I really appreciate it.” The man bowed down deeply. I was very shocked to hear the news that Mrs. Shinoda suddenly had passed away. He was her son.

     The third Sunday morning is the cleaning day in my neighborhood. It is a kind of volunteer activity and local residents clean around their houses, for example, gathering fallen leaves, and empty cans, bottles, and cigarette butts. After the cleanup, there is a brief meeting, in which the residents get new info, such as a fire drill, the local art festival, the sport meet, and so on. So, we received the sad new about the death of one of our neighbors last Sunday morning.

     Of course, not only me but also others were shocked to hear of Mrs. Shinoda’s sudden death. But the news had a special meaning for me. She and I had a curious coincidence, which goes back over ten years…

     My short essay appeared in the Chunichi, a local news paper some while ago. Actually, I do not remember exactly what I wrote at that time, but it was about coffee. A few days after the article was in the paper, I received an envelope from the newspaper company. When I opened it, I found another envelope. It was a letter from a reader, Mrs. Kawade in Showa-ku. She said that she also loved coffee and was impressed by my story…She and I have been pen pals since then.

     We have tried to meet each other a few times, but our rendezvous is always disrupted by something. One day I received an interesting letter from her. It said, “I believe that Mrs. Shinoda is one of your neighbors. Actually, she and I are friends!” My apartment is on the fifth floor and The Shinodas’ is on the first floor in the same building. I was surprised and went to see Mrs. Shinoda right away. She also loved coffee, and we became friends. Since then, we always said, “Let’s meet Mrs. Kawade together someday!” But we cannot achieve it…

     She was a terminal cancer patient. So, she was not able to go out by herself lately and often asked me to buy some coffee beans. I used to deliver what she asked at her room. But one day her daughter visited me with some money. She told me unexpected things. She said, “How much should I pay you?” First, I could not understand what she meant and replied, “Excuse me, but what do you mean?” She thought that her mother had not paid for the coffee beans. According to her, her mother’s dementia was progressing. So, she and her brother did not give money to their mother. But they found many bags of coffee beans in their mother’s room and asked her how she got them. Then they knew about my existence.

     Actually, I did not notice Mrs. Shinoda’s dementia. Whenever I thought she bought too much coffee beans, I asked why. She always replied, “Oh, many of my friends visited me last week. So, the coffee I bought the other day has gone. And I’m going to have them this week again. I need lots of coffee!” I kept on believing her words. Besides, she always paid me correctly. When I told her daughter about that, she was nodding and said, “Yeah, she used to live that way. Probably, she believes those past experiences are happening now. I’m wondering where she’s hiding her money…” Anyway, I apologized and promised her not to buy anything if her mother asked me. That was a few weeks ago. Since then I had not seen Mrs. Shinoda…

     On the cleaning day, not only Mrs. Shinoda’s son but also her daughter was there. So, I extended my condolences to her. According to her, soon after her visit to my apartment, her mother’s condition got worse and she was hospitalized. Her mother could not eat or drink anything a few days before she passed away. But when she asked her mother, “Do you want to have some coffee, Mother?” Mrs. Shinoda smiled, nodding, and then sipped coffee before she was gone. “My mother died as if she fell asleep. She no longer needs to suffer from any pains. She drew the curtain on her life with her favorite coffee. She was lucky. Thank you for your kindness.” She said that and smiled.

     “You still have lots of coffee at your mother’s apartment. I’ll buy them if you like.” I offered. But Mrs. Shinoda’s daughter said with a big smile, “Thank you, but you don’t need it. All of my family love coffee! They’ll be gone soon!” Mrs. Shinoda’s passing was a blow for me, but her deathbed episode was relieving for me. I’m going to offer incense sticks of coffee aroma to her grave…

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