Back in April, I mentioned the very sad news about my wife’s terminal cancer and the limited amount of time she had left. Heartbreakingly, that time has now been and gone. Tough beyond belief, and stoic right until the very end, Akiko died last week — her life cut horribly short at the age of just 43. The world keeps turning of course, but it’s without a doubt a darker place without the light of kindness and fun Akiko brought to it. A shadow that obviously looms very large in my life, as I lost both my wife and best friend, meaning the life that now remains is a very different one indeed.
During these last few months, there were times when the situation was hard to say the least. Due to the truly dreadful nature of the disease, it was also a period that involved an awful lot of suffering, and yet despite it all, Akiko demonstrated a level of thoughtfulness that I struggle to match even on my better days. Additionally, there was a journey element of sorts, albeit one confined to our living room. Along with Akiko’s family, it was a chance to simply hang out, reminisce about this and that, plus most importantly of all, express things that all too often get left unsaid. In the end though, it was a journey that had to end in a parting of the ways. Not one at the door saying, ‘see you later’. Not at the airport on our many trips to and from the UK either. But a parting that ended with a final, utterly gut-wrenching farewell.
So, as I now sit in that same living room writing this, Akiko isn’t here anymore. Nor will she ever be. That means there are no more shared dinners and jokes to enjoy, no more shared experiences and support, and no more endearingly rolled eyes at my general incompetence at most things that demand even a modicum of common sense. And yet that said, Akiko is still here. She remains forever in my heart and always on my mind — a place where she’ll continue to be a positive and encouraging force until it’s my turn to head in the same direction.
As a postscript of sorts, I should add that photography, as ever, has been a huge help throughout all of this, and with that in mind, I know for sure that it’ll provide the kind of distraction and drive I’m desperately going to need. Like a reason to go back out into the world again, and a reason to try and think about things other than what’s just happened. Giving up and downing tools is also something Akiko made me promise I would not do, so as soon as I’m up to it, I’ll be out shooting again, or at the very least sifting through older photos. In fact, in regards the latter, I already have some previously put together drafts ready and waiting, so my plan is to start posting again on July 27th, with subsequent new posts every Tuesday and Friday. But until then, take care, and always take similarly good care of the ones you love.
* I’d just like to say thank you very much for all the lovely and supportive comments. With so much to take care of at the moment, replying to them all individually simply isn’t possible. Emotionally it would be a real struggle too. But reading them has been an incredibly positive experience in a time when such gestures and thoughts are more precious than ever. Thank you.
So sad to hear. Rest in peace.
Clemens Schwaighofer says
This is just so sad and I just want to express my deep condolences for your loss. There is not much more to say.
Jason Combs says
I’m sorry for your loss. I can’t image how you must be feeling. In times like these there is very little anyone can say to ease the pain. Just know there are those us here who appreciate you and enjoy your photography. Hang in there, man.
T Okaku says
A post that was expected but even though, it still hurts. Thank you for sharing, we are with you, even if it’s just through your posts and social media. Cyber hugs.
I’d been thinking of you and Akiko from time to time since your previous post on her. I have no words that express my sorrow for your loss. I’ll keep you in my thoughts. And I’ll work to take care as you suggest.
Vivian Morelli says
I am so, so sorry to hear that. I cannot imagine the pain you’re going through. I will be thinking of you.
I’m so sorry. Life is so unbelievably cruel.
Mark Thorpe says
Sorry for your loss mate. A friend of mine here in Okinawa is facing the same scenario. I always try to be happy when people pass, celebrating the fact I knew them, not mourning their absence. All the best.
Carolyn Todd says
I’m so very sorry Lee. I missed your previous post so I had no idea that this was coming. Your wife always sounded like an amazingly brave woman throughout her illness and I’m sorry that you’ve both had to go through this. I haven’t commented here for a long time as I’ve spent the last few years taking care of my sick dad, who died in January. I know that we can’t take away your pain but I hope it’s a comfort to know that people are thinking about you. Take care.
It is truly unfortunate that your wife and yourself have had this sort of misfortune at such a young age. As others have mentioned I can’t imagine the amount of grief you must be feeling. Although words may never be enough to resolve that grief I’d like to extend my condolences and sincere wishes for some semblance of order and light to return to your life.
So sorry to hear that. My wife is basically the same age, I cannot even imagine what you must be going through. From what you say, it looks like she will be resting in peace, which I hope will bring some comfort.
I’m devastated at this sad news, Lee – I cannot even begin to imagine what the two of you have gone through, and how you must feel now. I’d like to extend my sincere condolences, and wish you a lot of strength during this time. Take care.
Dale Yamashita says
My deepest condolences. It sounds like you know that life goes on; it’s tough, but it has to go on.
Thank you for allowing us to follow you on this journey. I am sorry for your loss.
My partner passed away from cancer at a similar age, 3 months ago. It’s a very difficult thing, and I wish you the best.
I’ve recently been stuck at a loss for words elsewhere, and having previously been picking up on a telling silence over at Tokyo Times, I am doubly struggling with the words now.
Those photos both, make my eyes leak, and I can only echo Linda’s comment that ‘Life is rather unsatisfactory’ (Noble Truth #1).
Akiko was a hidden part of Tokyo Times, and in a different way now perhaps, she will continue to be.
The two of you have been in my thoughts since you first shared the news. May you find the kind of peace that your photography has brought to so many of the rest of us.
Lee that photo of you and Akiko, reminds me of the Torvill and Dean ice staking team. Admired by all, sharing their talent with all of us, and earning high marks from those of us following them.
Try to be at peace Lee. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Stephan Jarvis says
I’m so sorry to hear this, Lee. I can’t imagine how difficult things must be right now. My deepest condolences to you. As you said, she’ll remain forever in your heart and in your thoughts going forward. I hope you’ll find the strength to get back out and start taking photos again soon.
Sorry to hear about your loss. Stay strong!
My condolences for the loss of your wife at much too young an age. I will try to keep your words in mind about the loved ones in my own life.
Sean Lotman says
Wishing you strength and courage in the days going forward.
Nate L. says
It’s not much coming from a stranger you don’t know, sitting here in London, but my heart goes out to you. I hope you’ve got the support you need and I’m sure everyone who loves your photography is wishing you as much comfort as is possible.
I’m so sorry to hear this, Lee. Beautiful words, as always, and a lovely picture. Thank you for sharing. Take care of yourself.
This is unbearably sad news.
As we have been throughout we will both be thinking of you.
Expect a fierce hug from my wife next time we meet.
Please accept my deepest sympathy and understanding Lee. The grieving process will be hard and your feelings will be all over the place for a few months. From my recent experience, and advice from friends who have also been through it, the overwhelming grief will begin to fade but it will stay in a corner of your mind and emerge to hit you. Sometime you will be expecting it such as on a special day or in a shared place memory but other times it will sneak up on you and punch you in the stomach. Stay strong.
So so sorry to hear, this is terribly sad news, and I can only imagine what you both have gone through. Wishing you all the best and thinking of you!
Ted T says
Oh Lee, I am so sorry to hear this. You too, please take care of yourself and those around you.
Man, what help are words when you’re going through something like this? I’m glad that you’re continuing with the posts – I’m sure the routine will help and give us all something to look forward to in the months ahead.
Graham Holliday says
Terribly sorry to hear about your loss, Lee. I wish Akiko peace and I wish you and your family strength in the coming months and years.
Very sad news, life can be so cruel sometimes…
I wish you to find some relief with photography. Art can be helpful sometimes.
Lee, so sorry to hear. There are no words.
All we can do is wish you strength.
My condolences. Remain strong in your heart.
Rob Dyer says
So, so sorry to hear this Lee. You must be devastated.
Thinking of you my friend. xx
Anthony Jeans says
So sorry to read this, Lee. I am a Brit with a Japanese wife, who has an ongoing struggle with cancer, currently winning and with a fair chance of recovery but I am able to imagine a bit of what you have/are going through.
Take care of yourself and I thank you for the reminder especially relevant for me in your last sentence.
Brenda & Roy says
Thinking of you Lee, so very sorry for your loss! RIP Akiko. Xxx
Please let me just join in on Brendas and Roys comment. My thoughts are with you. Condolences from Berlin Matthias
I’m sorry for your loss Lee.
Jotta Vinti junior says
Senhor Chapman, meus respeitos e pêsames.
Lamento profundamente o passamento de sua Senhora.
Eu lhe desejo forças para passar por esse momento tão delicado da vida.
My sincere condolences and from the deepest of my heart I wish you and your family all the strength you need. Even though I’m just a silent reader of your blog… you are in my thoughts and I wish you well.
I’m a long time follower of your site (since google reader times, maybe) and admirer of your work. I’m very sorry for your loss, but your post was a beautiful homage to your late wife, I’m sure she would love it. cheers, be well
I’m so sorry to hear this. Your love for one another shines through in the warmth of your writing. I’m sure Akiko is very proud of you. Stay strong Lee!
So sorry for your loss, Lee. Thank you for sharing — including the photo of Akiko and you. I feel so much love emanating from it. May she rest in peace.
John VH says
So sorry for your loss. Prayers, thoughts and wishes for your consolation and for her peaceful rest.
Somehow ‘so sorry’ doesn’t seem to be enough at a time like this in one’s life. Having been there and done this myself I can say that things can get better for you. Staying engaged with your photography will help a lot. So will a few close friends who will, hopefully, just be present whenever you feel up to some companionship. The main thing: to nurture yourself as Akiko would if she were still here.
Jan Marie says
Je suis de tout coeur avec vous pour votre peine et votre deuil. J’aime énormément vos photos, pleines de tendresse, d’amour et d’empathie.
Je vous souhaite de trouver dans de nouvelles photos un apaisement à votre douleur. Courage !
PS : Sorry, I can read english but it’s to difficult for me to write.
I’m so sorry for your loss. Please take care.
Beautiful words for a beautiful soul. Take care of yourself Lee and my condolences. I hope you find some positive energy from shooting again. It is good that she told you to continue, it is good that by doing so you know she would be happy. Though we have never met in real life (how is that possible? I’ve met everyone) I am here for you. If you need anything at all let me know.
I am so sorry for your loss. Take the time you need. I have the feeling your photos will help you go through this very sad moment.
Thank you for sharing those words with us.
You will be in my thoughts. Take care of yourself.
Spanish fan says
I’m very sorry for your loss. I hope the love you’ve garnered helps you and yours cope. Thank you.
d. minnis says
My heart is breaking for you Lee, I think you were very lucky to have found each other in life and you will always have that. Both of your lives were enriched by your love and friendship. Yes, she would want you to get back out and shoot.
nicolas lopez says
Rest in peace. My condolences.
Tracey Bornstein says
I also lost my wife / best friend to cancer, now 18 years ago. It was around this time of year, during one of those heat waves that herald the foggy summer months to follow. For many years after, I would have muscle memory of those times, when the sun enters the window at a certain angle.
With my surroundings so full of memories, it was tempting ditch everything and start fresh elsewhere — but I’d lost enough already, and didn’t feel like I needed to give up more. And I’m still here, pushing on.
I’m so sad to hear your news – please accept my deepest condolences. Take care.
What a lovely photo of you both. Please take care of yourself.
Thom Ribière says
Still with you, terribly sorry to hear about your loss, with (virtual) friendship from Paris.
i’m sorry to hear what happened. i hope you find some comfort and remember to take care of yourself . – long time follower in Southern California.
I am so very sorry for your loss. Remember how much you loved each other. Take care my friend.
Ken Frocklage says
Sincere condolences from this Canadian. I’ve been following your blog for a few years now. Keep it going. Stay strong. Thank you for giving us a look at the Japan most of us will never experience.
Kieran Hayward says
We have never met nor communicated prior to this comment, I just want you to know that you are at the forefront of our minds during this awful time, my condolences.
Just read the post – can’t imagine at all. She looks like a great person just from that one photo (Misfish – nice) – a lot of life to celebrate for sure.
I’m so sorry to belatedly read this news. My heart goes out to you, and I wish you strength and peace.
I’m so sorry to hear this. I wish you a lot of strength. It will be a hard time in already a hard time… Please take care.
I’ve always enjoyed your photography but hadn’t been back to your site for a while. I was shocked and saddened to hear the news about your beloved wife. I hope that the beautiful memories that you shared together bring you some kind of peace. Stay well.