Yuhiko Nishiumi and his wife, Hiroe, were doing hinokishin at their followers dormitory on October 20, 2013. “It has been one year since my doctor told me that I only had a very short time to live. I am feeling nothing but gratitude for being able to devote myself to hinokishin now,” said Yuhiko. Hiroe gave a nod with a gentle smile.
Yuhiko was running a company dealing in non-ferrous metals. After handing his business to his son at the age of sixty, he was enjoying his life and hobby of sea fishing. In September 2012, however, he began to notice that there was something wrong with him. Frequently beset by a severe stomachache, he had lost 17 kilograms (37.48 lb.) of weight within a month. In October 2012 he was informed at the hospital—where he had received a physical examination periodically since he contracted diabetes 20 years ago—that he had pancreatic cancer. His doctor said, “The tumor marker level, 6,000, is significantly higher than normal, which is 37. The surgery must be performed as soon as possible.”
Immediately Hiroe contacted her younger brother, Kenichi Adachi, who is serving as the head minister of Tenrikyo Kuho Branch Church. He recommended her to have Yuhiko attend Shuyoka, saying that in view of his illness he would do well to make a resolution to enter Shuyoka.
After getting married to Hiroe, Yuhiko attended the Besseki lectures and became a Yoboku about 15 years ago. Yet, having followed in his mother’s footsteps in becoming a devout Buddhist, he was faithful enough even to make pilgrimages to the Saigoku-Sanjusansho (visiting 33 designated temples in the Kinki region of Japan) and the Shikoku-Hachijuhakkasho (visiting 88 designated temples on Shikoku island of Japan) several times. Therefore, although he attended the Besseki lectures, he just intended to save Hiroe’s face as she was born and raised in the Tenrikyo church. “Please come with me and attend Shuyoka together,” Hiroe said, pleading with him, but he did not listen to her.
His surgery was performed on October 17, 2012, two weeks after receiving the notification of cancer. It was major surgery, which removed more than half of the pancreas, the whole gall bladder and spleen, and one third of the stomach. A few days after the surgery, however, the doctor told him that he had at most six months to one year to live. The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes and was terminal. Yuhiko and Hiroe were stunned and speechless when they heard the doctor say: “There is no hope of recovery even though we will continue the treatment. You should go on a trip or eat whatever you like, making the best of the remaining time.” He was sent home, but he felt no energy. Feeling the fear of death, he forced himself to put his affairs in order and made a will.
Shortly after New Year’s, Yuhiko casually asked Hiroe, “What can I do to practice the Tenrikyo faith, starting tomorrow?” “Let’s consult with the head minister,” answered Hiroe. Rev. Adachi visited them and again recommended Shuyoka, saying: “Don’t be discouraged. You still have half a year. Now is the season for salvation leading up to the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama. You will be saved if you attend Shuyoka and soak up the teachings of the path.” As Yuhiko listened to Rev. Adachi, he saw a ray of hope and decided to attend Shuyoka with Hiroe from April 2013.
They returned to the Home of the Parent toward the end of March. Yuhiko chose to enter Shuyoka in April because he was very fond of the season in which the cherry blossoms were blooming. To his surprise, however, he felt nothing even when he saw cherry trees in full bloom along Higashisuji Street.
Soon after Shuyoka began, Yuhiko confided his situation to the class during a self-introduction session. The homeroom instructor suggested that all the classmates take part in administering the Sazuke to him every day. One classmate said, “My grandfather attended Shuyoka and was saved from cancer.” Another told Yuhiko, “I decided to attend Shuyoka in the hope that my mother would be saved even though she had been informed that she only had three months to live.” Yuhiko was told, “Mr. Nishiumi, you will be saved, too!” Such words of encouragement from the classmates kept the Nishiumis’ spirits up despite the situation where they might otherwise have been disheartened.
Also, a counselor at their dormitory encouraged Yuhiko by saying: “We are taught that ‘through saving others, you will be saved.’ Mr. Nishiumi, since you are a Yoboku, you should set your mind to administer the Sazuke.” Until then, Yuhiko had never administered the Sazuke. Hiroe taught him the procedures and hand movements of the Sazuke, and he started to administer the Sazuke every day to the dorm counselor, who was troubled with rheumatism.
While receiving the administration of the Sazuke several times a day at the Shuyoka classroom and his dormitory as well as at the Main Sanctuary after the evening service, he earnestly continued to administer the Sazuke to others. An eighteen-year-old man in his class told him that he desired to administer his first Sazuke to Yuhiko once he received it. Yuhiko and Hiroe realized that many people were praying single-heartedly for Yuhiko’s recovery, and their hearts were filled with a sense of gratitude for such people’s sincerity.
As the days went by, Yuhiko noticed that, since he entered Shuyoka, he had not had any side effects of the anticancer drugs that he was taking three times a month. He used to be laid up with a fever on the days when he took the drugs, but he felt healthy enough to drive back to Jiba from the hospital in Osaka where he has been taken care of.
Then one day the classmate whose mother was on the verge of death with three months to live told Yuhiko with a smile: “Last time I talked to my mother on the phone, she said that she was feeling good enough to work in the field. Mr. Nishiumi, do not worry. You too will be saved for sure!”
Yuhiko was no longer living in fear of death after listening to his classmates’ experiences and receiving their words of encouragement. He was able to eat the same food as his classmates and gradually regained his weight. Convinced that there is no error in the teachings, he earnestly engaged in hinokishin and enthusiastically practiced the dance and musical instruments for the service.
In the beginning of June 2013, Yuhiko and Hiroe were at the hospital in Osaka for his regular checkup. Staring at the result, his doctor said in astonishment: “The cancer in lymph nodes has disappeared. There is no sign of metastasis any more!” On hearing that, Yuhiko and Hiroe took each other’s hands and wept with the joy of being saved. After hearing the news, Rev. Adachi, their church’s head minister, commented, “While spending his days at Shuyoka in Jiba, the teachings of the path must have seeped into his body.” Since completing Shuyoka, they have been attending the morning service at their church every day and spiritedly participating in hinokishin at their followers dormitory once a month.
Yuhiko says, “My heart is filled with gratitude to those who took time to single-heartedly pray for my salvation, casting aside their concerns for themselves. I will never forget my indebtedness for being saved. I would like to take initiative to administer the Sazuke to those who are suffering from illness and do my utmost to carry out whatever I can to bring joy to Oyasama.”