Every month at the kindergarten where I teach, there is a birthday party and lunch for all the children who have birthdays in that month. In the morning when the children arrive, the birthday boys and girls get to choose a ribbon which is pinned on their shirt or dress. The children and staff gather for a lunch and party prepared by some of the mothers, and throughout the day the ribbon adorned children are recognized and congratulated. The children take home their ribbons and most of them treasure the simple pins for years after.
I never thought about it, but where did those ribbons come from? It has been a tradition at Mifumi Kindergarten for the past 15 years which adds up to a lot of ribbons when you consider that each year the enrollment is about 100 children.
I found out on Monday.
Last Friday when I made an appearance at the kindergarten I was talking to the kindergarten principal and learned that her mother, Mrs. Sato, wasn't well. For many years Mariko-sensei's mother would attend the kindergarten entrance and graduation ceremonies, would come to enjoy the festivities on Sports' Day and would sit quietly on the sidelines during the Christmas pageant. I know that this sweet lady confidentially donated funds to buy the kindergarten playground equipment and that her heart has been directed towards the kindergarten for more than 20 years.
On Sunday night I got word that this lovely lady had passed away at age 91 and Monday I attended her funeral. The kindergarten playground is situated just below the church sanctuary and so the happy sounds of children playing drifted up and seemed very appropriate to the somewhat cheerful funeral service. Besides the sermon and hymns and words from the family, 4 or 5 of the kindergarten children came up quietly from the kindergarten and brought flowers and all of them were wearing their birthday ribbons. Birthday ribbons that Mrs. Sato has made for the kindergarten children for 15 years!
What a testimony of love and commitment! What a message of doing what you can in the place where you are put! Making ribbons is not a big job (actually making a hundred ribbons a year sounds like a big job!) but it was something that this lovely grandmother could do at her own pace and she did it right up until her 90th birthday!
And yes, one of her own ribbons was sent along with her on her eternal Birthday!