the apology

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Musuem

Today, I had to craft a paragraph about Hiroshima for an international meeting that will be held in Japan this spring. Though it will be my first time in this country, I’ve long felt a kinship for its people.

As I researched the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, I felt myself swallowing hard, despite the fact that I’d already apologized. Once. To a young woman named Seiko.

In the spring of 2007, Seiko and I were among 25 students preparing for our Let Your Yoga Dance instructor certification in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

One steamy June afternoon, she and I strolled down the access road to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, beneath its canopy of foliage, each taking a turn talking and then listening.

On our way back, Seiko and I chose to pause at a resting spot beside a thickly-trunked tree. We took a seat on the bench there, and Seiko turned toward me, saying, shyly:

“Kelly, can I ask you a favor?”

“What is it, Seiko?” I said.

“Will you sing for me?”

I laughed and looked quizzically at my new friend, and she quickly explained that she wanted to practice her dance prayer but hadn’t been able to find a recording of the song she selected.

“Here?” I said, looking at the grass and the tree.

Seiko nodded, hopefully, her eyes shining.

I wanted to decline, to say that I’d help her find it online, but how could I turn down this soul, so earnest and kind.

Before I could meet Seiko’s request, however, I felt something bubbling up inside. Something raw and painful and necessary.

“I need to say something to you, first,” I said.

“What is it, Kelly?” Seiko asked.

My voice was trembling when I spoke.

“I want to apologize for dropping the atomic bomb…  on your country.”

“What?” Seiko said. “I don’t understand, Kelly.”

Tears filled my eyes as I repeated those horrible words, and then Seiko took my hands in hers.

“Kelly. You don’t have to apologize for that. You and I weren’t even born.”

“I needed to speak those words to someone from your country,” I explained.

Seiko’s response was whispered through her own tears.

“No one has ever apologized to me for this before,” she said. “Thank you, Kelly.”

And there, under the arms of that magnificent tree in the soft grass of early June, I began to sing…

Somewhere Over the Rainbow…

and Seiko danced for me.