Jimmy, Is that You?

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In the summer of 1966, when I was seventeen, my nineteen-year-old cousin James Kajiwara and I spent endless hours discussing our plans for the future. Then Jimmy was  drafted into the  Army. His eventual destination was  Vietnam. Before  leaving for advanced infantry training  at  Fort Benning, Georgia, he  gave me my Christmas, birthday, and  graduation presents. Roy, he said, ” I have a feeling I won’t be back.”

“Don’t  say that!” I pleaded. ” “Promise me you’ll be back for my graduation next June.”

“Okey, I promise. I’ll be back.”

But four months later, on March 11, 1967, he was killed  in action. I tried  to deny his death. At first I felt empty, then  angry; finally I felt nothing. Graduation day came and  thoughts of Jimmy welled up inside me.

The graduating  students sat up in the hot bleachers  of the  Tennyson High  School gym while the parents  were seated  on the main floor, Wiping the sweat off my face, I watched the setting sun cast an eerie light through the doors.  Suddenly a chill swept through my whole body as  if someone had dumped a bucket of ice water on my head.

I  began to shiver uncontrollably.  I looked for Mom down in  the audience- and then I saw  him. Standing in the door way,  just two hundred feet away, was Jimmy. A wave of heat engulfed  my body. Quickly I looked away in fear.

The student sitting next to me said, “what’s the matter?  Looks like  you just saw a ghost.”

Though panic- stricken, I summoned my courage and  looked at Jimmy again. He was wearing his favorite red Pendleton shirt, carrying his camera as usual, and smiling directly at me. ” Do you see that guy standing over there at  the door?” I asked my neighbor.

“What guy? Are you all right?” he replied. But it wasn’t a dream.  All I could manage was to smile at  Jimmy, and then he was gone. My heart sank. Who would ever believe me?

Several days later, when I couldn’t  hold it  inside any longer, I confided in Mom (Lilian Matsuda).

“Tell me when  and where you saw him,” she said. ” did he look like?”

Slowly I repeated the details of my experience to her. “I thought it  was a dream but I know it wasn’t.” “It was  no dream,” Mom said, “because you’re describing exactly what I saw too.”

I was relieved and stunned all at once. Heretofore I had  never had any feelings about life after death. Jimmy came  back to show me the truth.

Roy Matsuda (as told to Corliss Chan)

 Larkspur, California

February 1986

 

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