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Can Love Heal a Family? a Moving Story Proves Just That…


Adversity provides an opportunity to exercise love and compassion towards others, and toward ourselves, too.

This story begins simply enough. A man and a woman, a couple, await their first child. It happens every day, doesn’t it? Every day, a woman discovers or confirms that she’s expecting. A man learns that he is to be a parent. These couples celebrate. Everything can seem common and simple, but only up to a point. It might be enough to look just a little more closely to discover life’s complexity.

This couple, happily expecting the arrival of their son, soon experience difficulty. The child will be born with a malformation capable of seriously affecting his cognitive and intellectual abilities. Even in utero, the doctors advise the parents to interrupt the pregnancy, but they refuse. The child arrives into the world and, as predicted, his condition is delicate. To survive, doctors need to surgically remove a malformation on the child’s skull. The parents agree to the operation, and although the operation is a success, it will have consequences for the child’s later development.

The couple’s son seems unable to establish any contact with them, with his surroundings, or with anything in the world. What human beings need so much – correspondence, a look that returns another look, or a smile that responds to a word– is not to be found in their son. The father ,especially, lives through dark days and terrible thoughts pass unceasing through his mind. Some days he thinks it would have been better not to have had a son, and at night he wonders if it would have been better to let him die. It’s a very difficult time.

But being human is all of this, too. People can be terrible, but also compassionate. The man’s job leads him to Hiroshima. Several years have passed since the tragedy of August 6, 1945, and in the city, death and illness still coexist with the risk of forgetfulness and abandonment. Some seek to stop these at any cost. Doctors in Hiroshima have not stopped treating patients, even knowing that they may themselves be contaminated with radiation and that further illness may result. Others simply refuse to leave, despite everything. The man then regrets the very idea of not loving his son. At home again, together with his wife, both realize that their son, whatever his condition, is like “a precious flower.”

One day, watching television together, the child reacts to a particular sound: the trill of a bird. His parents are astounded. Something tremendous has occurred. It is as if the son’s very existence is struggling to break through. His parents are thrilled and commit themselves to doing anything in their power to see him succeed.

They purchase an album on which the songs of birds have been recorded, accompanied by the voice of a woman who speaks the name of each bird. The parents play the record for their child.

Some time later, walking in the country, they hear again the song of a bird. The child identifies it and repeats the name of the species. Again, his parents can’t believe it. The child who has never spoken, who seems unable to fix his attention or to establish any link with the outside world, has found a point of encounter with his own external reality.

His parents decide to channel him toward music. Already 11 years old, he receives piano lessons at home, and although because of his condition he’d lost some motor skills, discipline and enthusiasm keep him afloat. Her teacher accompanies the technical lessons with musical notation. The effort pays off. One day, the child brings a score to class: it’s a composition all his own.

The child who’d never spoken, who later learned to identify the songs of birds, was now able to express himself through musical notation. His point of contact with the outside world was consolidated, with the others that a human being needs to transform one’s own life into an existence.

Eventually, the child became an adult and a composer. His name is Hikari, and he’s the son of Kenzaburo Oé and Yukari Ikeuchi. His father, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, only navigated all of his adversity thanks to literature. A Personal Matter (1964) was the first of three novels in which he addressed the circumstances of his life. It was followed by Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness (1969) and A Healing Family (1996).

On the other hand, his trip through Hiroshima, essential to his own subjective understanding of his experience and that own his pain and confusion were connected with those of other human beings, is recorded in Hiroshima Notes (1963).

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