Even after I connected with SA and started taking the Steps, there were many things I did not understand. One of them was the “timing of Higher Power.” I was repeatedly told by one of my fellows ahead of me in the Steps, that I would “always know” when to make amends, and to whom, and what to say to them, as long as I was properly connected to Higher Power. When considering making a Ninth Step amends, I would check with my sponsor the words to use and to whom and when I might know the right time to make the amends. I thought that recognizing the right time to make the amends would be a real Higher Power moment – the “timing of the Higher Power.” I think such a way of thinking is not wrong. However, I later had an experience in which I recognized the right time with greater clarity and conviction.
In January of one year, my sister, who lived about 500 km from me, contacted me, asking me to come to the hospital with her to hear her doctor explain her medical condition. I had heard that my sister was ill, but she had never explained her specific condition to me, only telling me that she was fine and not to worry about it.
I grew up in a family of four with my parents and older sister. My father was a tireless worker, and my mother made sure we had enough food to eat every day. Thanks to them, I grew up to be a person who enjoyed the act of eating and always pursued my education regardless of my economic circumstances. My father, on the other hand, was a problem drinker who inflicted a lot of emotional abuse and some physical abuse on us, his children. My mother facilitated his drinking problem. I cannot recall ever receiving a single compliment from her. My sister and I were comrades, the two of us trying to survive the discomfort of our home.
At the hospital, the doctor told me that my sister’s condition was bad. To an extent, I had expected this. Even I, a layman, could see that she had cancer and that there was little hope for her recovery. I thought she might survive until the cherry blossoms that year, but could not see how she would see them the following year. (For those of us who grew up in Japan, cherry blossoms in the spring have a very special meaning.)
My sister seemed to have understood her situation for quite a while and was resigned to it. That night, I had dinner with my sister, and I remember that we talked about our childhoods and our recent mutual work, not much about her illness or her future. When I returned alone to the hotel where I was staying that night, I cried in the bathtub, saddened by the thought of my sister’s passing in the not-too-distant future.
There was a major concern at this point. My sister had had very little contact with our parents. She had not even told them that she was sick in the first instance. She was very clear that telling them about her illness would only upset her, and was quite firm that I should not tell them about it. I myself was not very close to my parents and agreed with my sister’s opinion that it would make matters more complicated.
It was daunting to imagine myself saying to my parents at some inevitable point that their daughter, my sister, had been ill for years and had now passed away, and that I had known all along.
Of course, it was my sister herself who was suffering the most, so my first priority was to fulfill her wishes. My sister, who was working in the medical field, had done a lot of research on her own illness, and as a result, she decided to receive only the standard treatment and told me not to do anything unnecessary. It was also her wish to continue working and lead a normal life for as long as she could.
Then, when it came to fulfilling my sister’s wish, there was not much I could do for her. She hated being bothered with this and that just because she was sick. Every day I tried to think of whatever I could do for her, pray for her, bring to her.
I had to accept many times that it was my own wish to do something, not a request from my sister or my Higher Power. Of course, I prayed many times for His guidance. As for the question of when to tell my parents, I had absolutely no idea, no insights, no intuition whatsoever. I had to trust the words of my fellows that I would know what to say, when to say it, and to whom, so long as I was properly connected to my Higher Power. Looking back, I see that I was dependent upon connection with my Higher Power during this period, and perhaps even more strongly connected to Higher Power than I am today.
In January of the following year, my sister, now in a palliative care ward, contacted me to come over because she wanted to go out to take care of some business. I went to the hospital and took a cab to go out with my sister, visiting her home, the bank, and other places to attend to her business. When I asked her if she needed to tell her parents yet, she replied curtly, “not yet.”
Soon after the beginning of February, my sister’s doctor contacted me while I was at work, asking me to come to the hospital as soon as possible. I asked him if I needed to go immediately, telling him that I lived 500 km away. He asked me then to come as soon as I could. When I rushed to the hospital, my sister was still conscious and barely able to speak. When I got there, I was convinced that the moment had come: it was now or never. I felt no doubt whatsoever and said so to my sister. “I’m going to tell our parents,” I said. She agreed, joking that they were entitled to see her before the mortuary. When I asked the doctor, he said she probably had about another two weeks or so.
I called my mother and told her that my sister’s death was imminent and that I had been hiding it from her at my sister’s request. She seemed to have guessed that that was the case and she demanded that I come home and go through it all with her and my father. I went to their house that night, explained it all and told them I had arranged with her doctor that we all go to the hospital together the next morning.
Early the next morning, the hospital informed me that her condition had worsened. I went there with my parents but when we got there, she had already passed away. I think that both of them regretted not being able to see her alive. However, from my point of view, I was able to fulfill her wish to the very end, but also let my parents know the situation while she was still alive. Other than the fact that my sister had passed away, none of the things I had feared actually happened. It was as if my sister had arranged the timing of her death so that I, her loving younger brother, would have as little trouble as possible.
The day before, standing by her hospital bed, I got that strong Higher Power timing and was in no doubt that it was really now or never. I have never had such a strong conviction before or since. Looking back at it now, I believe that it was Higher Power’s plan to let me feel what such certainty is like and that I had been given the Steps by my Higher Power in the lead up so that it could happen.
There are many things that have helped me to connect with SA and take the Steps and feel happier. My relationship with my wife has also improved amazingly. When my wife casually said to me at the end of a day when nothing special was happening, “It’s fun to be with you,” I thought that such happiness was not possible. On the other hand, I think the fact that I can face hard things, distinguish what I can and cannot do, and act quickly when the time comes, as I did when my sister passed away, is a result of working the Steps, and a gift from my Higher Power.
It is my hope that someday, when something hard happens again, I will be able to stay connected to Higher Power again. To that end, I hope that today will be another day when I can work on the Steps without hesitation.