Home History JCCCW Omoide From Darkness into the Light~JCCCW’s Omoide

From Darkness into the Light~JCCCW’s Omoide

By Joan Seko For The North American Post

Death is almost upon him. A man of great worth lies dying. His wife, Joan, children, and grandchildren gather around his bed.

Roy’s breath comes in short spurts — a death rattle. His once vital body is now shriveled — unrecognizable. Roused from sleep — a hacking cough awakens him. A small sip of water — a fevered gaze round the room — a forced smile.

Roy was once a man of dignity and refinement. Respected by his peers — he is ready to meet his maker. A final glance at his beloved family — death has finally come to claim his soul.


Roy was diagnosed with pancreatic/liver cancer on June 22, 2004 with an estimated one month to live. In a week, he became jaundiced and had stent placement surgery. His blood sugar skyrocketed and he had to administer insulin shots. From a robust 175 pounds, he went down to 90 pounds.

Roy was a social person and asked to see his friends. So, by phone calls and word of mouth, over two hundred people came to say goodbye. Roy joked, took pictures and made them feel at ease.

We bought a golf cart so Roy could ride around our Japanese garden. He directed pruning of the trees and laying of the mulch and gravel. Roy took our five children, one at a time, on the golf cart and instructed them to take care of me. 

Rimban Don Castro, from the Seattle Buddhist Temple, was called so Roy could arrange his funeral. The Rimban was surprised and said this was the first time someone wanted to plan their own service. Roy picked out his pallbearers and speakers. He asked the Rimban to keep the service short and simple. 

After the service Roy wanted to invite the people to partake of a buffet dinner and drinks at Bush Garden Restaurant.

Roy never complained about his coming death sentence. He didn’t feel sorry for himself, show anger or anxiety. Roy did not lash out with frustrating mood swings. But, of course, we didn’t know what he was thinking inside his head.

My husband counted the days as they quickly sped by. 

Each day he would ask, “What day is it today?” 

Roy was counting the days before his death.

Roy was sitting in his recliner on the back deck when a doe and stag appeared in the garden. The doe trotted away, but the stag with his long-extended antlers, stood looking at him for over three minutes. 

We were all in awe. Calmly, Roy said the animals had come to say goodbye. God, or in our case Buddha, works in mysterious ways and this was one of those times.

The night before Roy’s death, he asked my daughter if she heard the music. When she replied no, he told her the living did not know anything about the spiritual world. Although he was not religious, Roy seemed to see the unknown as he lay dying.

Roy passed away thirteen days after his diagnosis on July 4, 2004. His father had died on the same date — in a different year — July 4, 1966. 

His father came to take him home.

Author’s note. The two Seko brothers, Roy (Joan) and Robert (Amy), joined their father, Kaichi Seko, in starting the second Bush Garden restaurant in 1957. The father moved it from the original Bush Garden in the Bush Hotel. The restaurant became popular, due to its Japanese interior design (tatami rooms), menu and karaoke bar. It became the “place-to-go” for celebrities, politicians, businessmen and the Japanese community. The Seko ownership ended in January 1997, after 40 years.