Sustained by Hope to Endure Trials
AS TOLD BY MICHIKO OGAWA
On April 29, 1969, I received a call from the police. My husband, Seikichi, had been injured in a traffic accident and was in the hospital. I left my two young sons with a friend and rushed over there. Seikichi has been paralyzed ever since and has never regained consciousness. Let me tell you about our family and how we have managed.
I WAS born in February 1940 in Sanda, near Kobe, Japan. Seikichi and I have known each other ever since we went to kindergarten together. We were married on February 16, 1964. My husband was a man of few words, but he loved children. In time, we had two boys, Ryusuke and Kohei.
Seikichi was employed at a construction company in Tokyo, so after we married we lived in one of its suburbs. In October of 1967, I was visited by a young woman who introduced herself as a Bible teacher. “No thanks. I have my own Bible,” I said.
“May I see the Bible?” she asked.
I took the Bible from our bookshelf—it belonged to Seikichi—and let her see it. She showed me the name Jehovah in it. I never knew that this was God’s name. The woman, observing my two small children, read to me from the Bible: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) I had actually been wondering how I could bring up my children successfully. So right away I wanted to study the Bible.
I invited the woman into the room, and we began a discussion from the booklet “Look! I Am Making All Things New.” I thought, ‘How wonderful it would be if we as a family could enjoy a happy life!’ When Seikichi came home, I said: “I want to study the Bible.”
“Honey, you don’t need to be so educated,” he said. “I’ll help you with whatever you wish to know.” Nevertheless, I began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses each week and soon started to attend their meetings.
Beginning of Our Trials
When I arrived at the hospital that night in April 1969 mentioned above, I was shocked to learn that a friend of Seikichi, the husband of the woman with whom I had left my sons, had also been in the taxi when the accident occurred. My husband’s friend died a week later.
That night the hospital staff told me to get in touch with anybody who I felt should see Seikichi, since he was not expected to live. He had a fracture of the base of the skull and a cerebral contusion. The next day relatives hurried to the hospital from the Kobe area.
A voice announced urgently over the hospital loudspeaker: “All relatives of Seikichi Ogawa, please visit him immediately.” We hurried to the intensive care unit and took turns bidding him farewell. However, his critical condition lasted a whole month. A final diagnosis indicated that this condition would last for a long time.
So Seikichi was transferred from Tokyo to Kobe by ambulance, a distance of some 400 miles [650 km]. I saw him off and headed home by bullet train, praying for his survival. Later in the evening, on seeing him alive at a hospital in Kobe, I was overjoyed. Under my breath I said to him, ‘Honey, you did hang in there!’
Living With My Parents
I returned with my sons to my parents’ home in Sanda, where the children started kindergarten. I purchased a season train ticket to Kobe, which was some 25 miles [40 km] away, and my mother-in-law and I took turns commuting to the hospital daily for the next year. I would wonder, ‘Will Seikichi regain consciousness today? What will he tell me first? How should I respond?’ I would also think, especially when I happened to see a happy-looking family, ‘If only Seikichi were well, then our sons would have a pleasant time.’ Tears would well up in my eyes.
In those early years, when I read in the newspaper that a person had regained consciousness after several months in a coma, I would think that Seikichi might also wake up. So I once said to my brother-in-law: “I want to take him to the hospital in northeastern Honshu.” But he told me that there was no remedy, and he advised me to use what funds we had for the other family members.
A Christian elder in one of the Kobe congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses lived near the hospital, and I would stop at his house before going to visit Seikichi. Once a week his wife conducted a Bible study with me. And their two children would come to our room in the hospital to deliver an audiocassette of their congregation meetings. I was greatly encouraged and comforted by this family.
Sustained by Hope
One day, a traveling overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses visited us at the hospital and read Romans 8:18-25 to me. In part, it says: “I reckon that the sufferings of the present season do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us. . . . For we know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now. . . . When a man sees a thing, does he hope for it? But if we hope for what we do not see, we keep on waiting for it with endurance.”
The discussion of our Christian hope reminded me that the present sufferings are small when compared with the joy that Jesus promises—life in the coming Paradise earth. (Luke 23:43) The discussion helped me to face present realities with hope and to focus on the future realities of new world blessings.—2 Corinthians 4:17, 18; Revelation 21:3, 4.
In June 1970, Seikichi was transferred to a hospital in Sanda, where my parents and I lived. The following January, when I received the document filed by our lawyer that declared my husband incompetent as a result of the accident, I was extremely sad and couldn’t hold back my tears. My mother-in-law often told me: “I am sorry, Michiko, for the hard time you are having because of my son.” She would also say: “I wish I could substitute myself for Seikichi.” We would weep together.
My father would urge me to find full-time employment, but I was determined to care for Seikichi. Though seemingly unconscious, he responded to heat and cold and was affected by the ways nursing care was given. Father wanted me to remarry, but I realized that doing so would be inappropriate, since my husband was still living. (Romans 7:2) Thereafter, when Father drank he would say: “When I die I will take Seikichi along with me.”
To my great joy, a congregation was formed in Sanda in 1971. Then, on July 28, 1973, I was able to symbolize my dedication to Jehovah by water baptism. This was during the international convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Osaka Expo Grounds.
Later in 1973, my son Kohei contracted acute nephritis and was hospitalized for five months. My father was also in the hospital because of tuberculosis. So on January 1, 1974, I visited my father, my husband, and my son at three different hospitals. On Sundays when I went to see Kohei with my older son, Ryusuke, I studied the book Listening to the Great Teacher with them. After that, Ryusuke and I would attend a meeting in Kobe and return home with joyful hearts.
I have always been thankful for those who helped to care for Seikichi. I made a point of sharing Bible knowledge with them. After one caregiver lost her sister in a fire, she responded when I showed her the grand hope of the resurrection promised in the Bible. (Job 14:13-15; John 5:28, 29) A Bible study was started with her in the hospital, and she eventually was baptized, at a convention in 1978.
My Children, a Source of Joy
Rearing my children without the help of my husband has been a challenge, but how rewarding it has been! I taught them proper manners and concern for the feelings of others. When Ryusuke was only three, he would apologize when he did not behave himself, saying: “Mama, I’m sorry.” Kohei was a little rebellious, at times showing resentment when I tried to correct him. Once he even lay down crying in front of a store when he wanted something. But I would reason with him, showing affection and patience. In time, he became an obedient, good boy. This helped to convince me that the Bible truly is God’s Word.—2 Timothy 3:15-17.
When Ryusuke entered junior high school, he explained to the teachers why he could not accept training in the martial arts. (Isaiah 2:4) One day, he came home from school bubbling with joy because at a meeting with a number of teachers, he was able to answer their questions.
Wholesome association in the congregation was very helpful for my sons. Christian elders often invited them for dinner and included them in their family Bible study as well as recreational activities. There were also opportunities for pleasant association, including participation in various sports. Ryusuke symbolized his dedication to Jehovah by water immersion in 1979, and Kohei was baptized the following year.
Our Full-Time Ministry
Once during the visit of a traveling overseer, I told him that I wanted to be a pioneer, as full-time ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses are called. Because at that time my circumstances would have made such a step unwise, he kindly reminded me of the need to bring up my sons firmly in Bible truth. “The important thing,” he said, “is to have a pioneer spirit.” So I auxiliary pioneered, sharing in this activity with my sons during their school vacations. This activity helped me greatly to maintain joy and peace of mind while caring for Seikichi.
Finally, in September 1979, I was able to join the regular pioneer ranks. In May 1984, about a year after graduating from high school, Ryusuke also enrolled as a pioneer. Kohei joined him in the pioneer work in September 1984. Thus, all three of us have enjoyed this form of the full-time ministry. As I look back over 20 years of pioneering, during which time I have had the privilege of helping a number of people to serve Jehovah, I feel that this activity has helped sustain me through my trials.
Ryusuke volunteered for construction work on a building for use by Jehovah’s Witnesses adjacent to the Kansai Assembly Hall. Later he served for seven years as a caretaker at the Hyogo Assembly Hall. Now, as a Christian elder in a nearby congregation in Kobe, he looks after me. Since 1985, Kohei has served as a volunteer worker at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ebina.
Sustained by Many Blessings
For many years I went to the hospital several times a week to visit Seikichi and to give him a bath. My care was provided in addition to that given by a regular caregiver. In September 1996, after 27 years in hospitals, Seikichi returned to live in our home, with the assistance of a caregiver. He is able to take liquid food through a nasal tube. Although his eyes have remained closed, he responds slightly when we say something to him. It pains me to see Seikichi in this condition, but I am sustained by a grand hope for the future.
Just prior to Seikichi’s return, I had offered accommodations to a traveling overseer and his wife, and so for a year five of us lived together in our rather small house. I never imagined that I would be able to live with Seikichi again, and I thank Jehovah for this. For many years I had a strong desire for Seikichi to open his eyes, but now I simply desire that Jehovah’s will take place.
I can truthfully say: “The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) While a happy life with a healthy Seikichi was short-lived, I have been blessed with two sons who ‘have remembered our Grand Creator.’ For this I am so grateful!—Ecclesiastes 12:1.
In the meantime, I would love both to continue to pioneer—thus helping others find “the real life”—and, at the same time, to give Seikichi loving care. (1 Timothy 6:19) My experience has taught me the truthfulness of the words of the psalmist: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.”—Psalm 55:22.
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My husband and me with Ryusuke
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Seikichi with our two sons, six months before the accident
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We were blessed with two sons, Ryusuke and Kohei (top), who ‘have remembered our Grand Creator’