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.
I 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.
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.
While 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.
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.
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.
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
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This article was previously published as part of this entry from November 11, 2009.