Skip to content

Day 11 – Monday, November 9, 2009

November 10, 2009

Aveline and Lily-cropped I was thinking about my sister, Lily. I miss her. I think being around Liona Boyd on Sunday, another person whose life is so entirely focused on music, made me think of my sister. They are both cancer signs and they both have a similar fluid and flexible grace about themselves that somehow allows them to naturally tap into that ethereal world of music.

Lily was born on July 20th, 1953 in New York. She died January 8, 1995. She was the oldest of my siblings. I have a lot of emotions when I think about my sister. There is sadness. There is anger, frustration and confusion. And, there is joy and peace.

The sad part about Lily is that she died at the young age of 41 of complications due to cervical cancer. The anger, frustration and confusion are about wondering why and how it could happen to her and if there was anything that I or anyone else could have done to help and prevent her death from happening. It was a shock to the whole macrobiotic community that Michio and Aveline’s own daughter died from cancer. Just prior to her stage 4 diagnosis Lily herself prophetically mentioned, “Wouldn’t it be ironic if Michio and Aveline’s own daughter had cancer?” She had cancer and died from it.  It was ironic and tragic and for many years after her death I was angry, frustrated and confused.

Lily On Front Steps 1I had seen the unhappy conditions in which she was living when I visited her in LA about seven years prior to her death.  She lived out of one single bedroom in a suburban home in the “valley” in LA.  Her things were so jam-packed in her room that there was no place to walk at all.  All one could do was sit on the bed.  I was too wrapped up in my own problems at the time to be able to help her.  She was worried about me and yet she was the one who really needed help, not me.

After her death I blamed myself, I blamed my parents and I blamed all of her friends for not giving her the love and attention that she needed to live a truly happy and vibrant life.  Her cancer death raised questions about the healing nature of macrobiotics and the  reactions that followed made me so angry for so many years.  Michio dismissed her death as the result of poor eating and damage done from excessive medical treatment.  Other macrobiotic leaders and former students of Michio’s saw it as an opportunity to bash Michio’s macrobiotic approach (an approach that many of them once blindly followed) and to promote their own work. I was disgusted by that reaction.

Lily and Aveline

In this photo Lily is was actually more ill than Aveline, who was also ill at the time, yet Lily made 1,000 origami cranes for her.

To me, the cause of her death was obvious: no one, myself included, gave her the ongoing unconditional love and support that she needed to transform her life completely.  The unconditional love necessary to transform one’s life requires going far beyond the normal patterns of everyday living.  It requires adopting the spirit known as “non-credo” – of giving up all preconceived notions and beliefs systems and being willing to change anything and everything in one’s life.

The many thousands who healed their cancers with macrobiotics grew up in a regular American household.  They had to transform their lives completely in order to adopt a macrobiotic lifestyle.  For Lily, myself, my siblings and any one else who was raised in a macrobiotic household, transforming our lives mean discarding the prevailing “credo”, which is none other than macrobiotics! I do not necessarily mean giving up eating brown rice, miso soup and fresh vegetables, what I mean here is giving up the “credo”, the conceptual dogma, that is macrobiotics; the very dogma which, paradoxically, can prevent one from directly experiencing the healing powers of food itself!  And to be able to let go of such a dogma requires a space of unconditional love and acceptance where there is no judgment and criticism at all.

Unfortunately for Lily, this never happened.  Instead, while she had cancer, her world went in the opposite direction and became completely absorbed by the prevailing macrobiotic dogma.  She needed to be pulled out that situation completely and be gently held like a newborn baby for long time until she could begin to feel and experience her own life again. She needed a complete life transformation that could only come from a safe cocoon of nurturing unconditional love.

Michio and LilyWhile Michio may have been technically correct in assessing the actual biophysical mechanism that may have caused her death he was not at all equipped with the emotional wherewith all and insight to save his own daughter.  None of us were.  Even if Michio or anyone of us had such ability, in the end very few, or perhaps none, have the ability to completely transform the life of another person.  That transformation must be born from an unwavering desire that comes from deep within the very person him or herself.  In the end, I believe that Lily died because she was more interested in satisfying the whims of others than she was in nurturing her own desire to transform her life and to live.  And it’s that belief or notion, whether true or not, that allows me to let go of my anger, my frustration and confusion. No shame, no blame. Life is but a dream; a river in which we gently row our boat.

A Recital cropped

Michio and Aveline congratulating Lily at a recital

The joy and peace is in remembering what a beautiful person and soul that she was and the gift of music that she gave me. Lily was the epitome of music. She studied music at Berklee School of Music and also the Dick Grove School of Music (now defunct). Lily taught me to read music. I remember sitting next to her on a piano bench as she would show me how to play piano and read notes. She taught me everything I needed to know in order to be able study music on my own. Because of her I was able to teach myself how to play piano from the Beatles to Scott Joplin to Beethoven. I was also able to teach myself to play guitar and do my own basic arrangements and notations.  She was the only one in my life who encouraged my music by always praising me and telling me how talented and amazing I was.

She had many friends in the music industry.  She took me once to a recording session with the Pointer Sisters.  I got to sit in the recording booth with renowned music producer, Richard Perry.  She also took me to her own recording sessions and allowed me to offer my own musical input.  She had studied everything one could about music from recording engineering to film scoring.  I have no doubt that if she were alive today, she would be a renowned film composer, jazz artist and an inspiration for many.

Phiya, Tenji and Lily cropped

Me and my son, Tenji, with Lily

I am happy to have her complete demo recordings, thanks to her good friend, Tom Trujillo, that she produced while at the Dick Grove School of Music and in my spare time will continue to make them available for all to listen to.  Below are links to ones I have made available so far.

Although I am writing this post on Tuesday morning, the 10th of November, yesterday I was in turmoil about whether or not I should share about Lily and the personal struggles I had in coping with her death.  Yesterday was a dark and challenging day as I was reliving all the anger and frustrations of the past.  It was the first time since I quit drinking that I really wanted a drink.  I was on edge trying suppress and control these emotions.

Later my friend came over.  She was oblivious to the turmoil that I was reliving and, perhaps mistakenly, I did my best to not let it interfere with my being present with her.  But it turned out to be a situation that could not be contained. I was in need of emotional support that I was avoiding and meanwhile she had made sudden decision that seemed very inconsiderate, which, given the state I was in, was greatly magnified. One thing led to another and I ended up terminating our relationship with her last night. It was selfish of me but it was clear to me that I can’t and shouldn’t rely on her for support.  She needs to be free to live her own life and I need to work through my own demons by myself. Yet I wanted so desperately the loving support of another.

facebook-logoShe left and fortunately, with the help of Facebook friends, I was able to work through the issues of the evening and avoided reaching for a drink.  Afterward I stayed up late, listening to Lily’s music and making available a new clip of her music on YouTube. This morning I am clear and I made the decision to post my experiences of the day and my memories of Lily.  I still miss Lily.  But I think she is happier now, where ever she may be.  I know I am.

Below are YouTube clips of Lily’s music that I have posted so far:

1.  “Easy Living” (1937) by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin. Arrangement and keyboards by Lily:

2.  “I’ve Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good” by Duke Ellington.  Arrangement by Lily.

3.  “Shine On Harvest Moon” (1908) by Nora Bayes-Norworth and Jack Northworth.  Arrangement by Lily

Share this story on FACEBOOK

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2009 5:55 pm

    I found Lily’s passing very peaceful and complete. Lily and I knew months before her passing that she was going to die. We talked openly about this when we were alone since it seemed she and I were the only ones willing to discuss her death. Lily was not at all remorseful or afraid of dying. The day before she passed away I knew she was going to die so I drove to Boston so I could be there with her. I found ma and pa there when I arrived and the three os us were there for her passing. I felt grief and loss, not for her, but for my own illusory self. Norio

  2. November 10, 2009 10:26 pm

    A very moving, honest and insightful piece, Phiya. I think you’re spot on with your observations concerning the fact that macrobiotics can become a dogma that restricts healing: also, the importance of non credo and unconditional love. I never met Lily, but of course I remember the story of her passing. Her music is very beautiful, and so is she.
    Plus anytime you need support, humour and freindship, you’ve got me here in Finland. PS watch out for a photo gallery of great dishes called “Detect This, Marlowe Spade!” 🙂 John

  3. Musheera permalink
    November 11, 2009 1:49 am

    Phiya…Thanks for sharing the story of Lily with us..
    You are doing a magnificant & tough job working through all this pain & anger.
    This post & your previous post on the NA touched me & made sense as I am involved with both communities…I’ve studied Macrobiotics for my own health & I worked closely with NA fellows as part of my work.
    I couldn’t agree more about the “holier than thow” atmosphere that fills Macro circles …unfortunatly this drives alot of people away from reaping the benefits of this lifestyle.
    On the other hand the acceptence that fills the NA circles is refreshing & truely reviving to the soul.
    I wish that one day there will be a sort of mixing between the two circles.
    I think the product will be amazing!!

  4. clara permalink
    November 11, 2009 5:21 pm

    I felt you, your sorrow and all your doubts. I also lost someone i loved. He got sick, multiple mialoma was diagnosted and he died in 2 months. I also miss him. He was like my mirror where i was always young, beautiful and happy. And also we could laugh a lot. and understand each other without saying a word. He was the father of my male son, which is the main reason to make me wake up and live each morning. Sometimes i also have to drink when i miss him so much that it hurts. But i know i have to let him go. What i believe is that when our time comes we die whether or not we practise macrobiotics or any other philosophy or a religion. He was also a wonderful person, he painted and he was so thrilled to be a grandfather, but he never got to know our grandson, because he went in coma. But we do need to exorcise our phantoms and i believe that’s what you are doing now. If you feel like send me a message to my email, may be i can help!

  5. Marion permalink
    November 16, 2009 2:44 pm

    Sitting here at my work (Archives of a regional Newspaper)i was researching at the internet. by hasard, i got to your side and i want to tell you that i knew Lilian. I love her ’til today as she was really lovely. I came to know her as she spent some time 1978 or -9 here in Germany, later(1979) i spent 6 month at the Kushi-Institute. I’m still sad for her death. God (or whoever this is) takes those, whom he loves the most, early – So is a saying here. (i’m sorry for my bad english)
    from Saarbrücken, Germany,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: