Eleven years ago, this month, I did something that will forever change my life.
Okay, let me start with some preliminary info. I grew up in a town that has a sister city in Japan. As such, I grew up with a lot of Japanese influence in my life. I have mentioned his before, if you have been paying attention. I also grew up dancing. I started tap and jazz when I was in fourth grade. It was a fun and exciting experience that I wanted to take with me my entire life.
Fast forward to 2000. My father changed jobs and moved us to a town in East Tennessee. I found a place that did not have any dance studios for people over the age of 12. My stage time seemed to be coming to an end. In 2001, my mother and I decided to go and see if we could help with the international festival being put together by the community center. At that meeting I met Nanae Ramey. She was there to help and see that her Okinawan dance school participated. I didn’t find anything in the festival I could help with, but I wanted to know more about this dance school. I asked her and she gave me her number. I went to her home and found that she had a small studio built to the back of the house and that was where she taught school. I joined that day and started a new dance career, Okinawan traditional and modern dance.
Over the years we performed all over the south and east. We went to California to celebrate the Masters 50th anniversary for being part of the school. (An impressive accomplishment.) I joined up with the Okinawan Kenjin Kai of Atlanta and met a lot of very wonderful people. We traveled a lot each year, heading to Atlanta to teach others this dance, and heading all over the place to perform. I started learning the Taiko, a modern drumming style in Okinawa that uses rock music and karate. Recently I also dabbled in learning the Shami-sen, a Japanese instrument that is similar to the banjo in shape and size. I got to really know my sensei after spending hours with her in a car talking and traveling. She taught me much more than dance. She taught me about life.
2008: A large spot was discovered on her lung and she went in for tests. It was soon discovered that she had a large cancer tumor and would have to undergo treatments. The doctors gave her less than 2 years to live. She beat that and in 2 years she was still teaching and even performing. Her health was not quite the same, but she persisted and proved the medical community wrong, for a while. In a heartbreaking piece of news, she found out that the cancer had spread. It moved to her brain and her bones. She struggled against that for a time, fighting with hope, prayer, and faith. I am very happy to know that in this time she became a Christian and accepted Jesus Christ as her savior. Unfortunately for us, her time had come and the Lord called her home. She passed away March 20, 2012.
I wish I could tell her how much she meant to me. I looked up to her. She did not get angry fast, she always displayed an element of wisdom that I strive to emulate. Most importantly she cared for everyone she knew. I will miss her every day, and I will think often of the many, many good times we had together. She taught me about life and I will honor her memory by trying to put those lessons to good use.
Rest in the peace of our Lord.
Note: I must say this. She never smoked, yet lung cancer took her life. Keep that in mind when you want to light up near others, with a child in your car, or a kind person in your life.