"August 28, 2017
I am writing as we are driving to the beach. With me are Kiyohira, Mutsumi, and Guthrie, and your Maxwell and Chrysanthe, and Luther and Mallory. Seven children, all my responsibility. They are listening to a story recording right now. They are all fine and brave. Maxwell said he is looking forward to the boat ride. When things happened here, we had to leave in a hurry. Because I know he was at home, I am certain my beloved Bennett is gone, as are many we have known, and our friends. Mom and Dad are gone, too, because they were at their apartment in the morning. I had just spoken with Mom on the phone before I left to go shopping and to the park. She had planned with Dad to plant some new tulips and daffodils today in a bed on campus for next spring.
There has been no time to grieve. That will have to wait until we can rest and let down. We will be traveling for two weeks or longer until we reach our destination. I know that I should be sorrowful, but it has not impacted me yet. My mind cannot grasp what has happened. I felt the explosion through the ground and saw the huge smoke plume rising in the southwest, and thought, ‘not a good direction’ but it did not occur to me that it actually could be what it was. The evacuation message—a total stranger walked up and gave me a note—confirmed a disaster. Later on, Murray told me his guess. I suppose he told you that when we received the warning, I started back to the Sternes’ Columbia River house right away, but I felt afraid and stopped and turned back before I got there. I remembered our evacuation training, which emphasized we should run immediately to the designated place. It is just as well, because Murray said the house was burning. I tried to call you, but my phone had stopped working.
I am doing my best to remain calm for the children and so I can make good decisions. It is not hard, and I am able to focus on each little problem as it arises. Those problems have so far been ordinary—tying shoes and feeding the children… and answering their questions. Luther has been saying that he wants to stay and join his brother Bernard, who is caving somewhere, or if he cannot find him, to fight. He wants to be a man, but this would be foolish, and I told him that he could not leave us. We do not have any extra clothes, but Murray knows a second-hand store on the coast that we can run into for a few minutes. We have ample food. I trust the people who will be helping us, and if something goes wrong, I’ll take it as it comes. I am carried on the wings of eagles.
Whatever happens, Stan, do not worry. I am afraid, but fear is only the surface of my emotions. Deep inside, I am confident. It will be hardest for you, my brother, because you might be alone. I have good company, and hope you, too, will find people that you can trust and who will help you. We have lost so much, but much remains to live for. I will take care of your dear children as if they were my own, and I will give my life for them, if necessary. They are out of your hands, so you should not worry. Maybe someday we will see each other again. I will try mailing you a postcard at Murray’s address after we are settled, if it seems wise. Thank you, Stan, for all your support and love. May the Lord protect and bless you. I will pray for you every day.
p.s. I would like to write more, but we are now outside the thrift store. I am scribbling fast so I hope you can read this. Don’t do anything your children will be ashamed of, Stan. It is important what happens to you. You are their father, and someday they will want to know how you lived and how, if it is God’s will, how you died—that you lived and died fighting for what is right. Don’t ever give up hope. There is one thing more. I said I have seven children in my care, but there are eight, because I learned a week ago… I am with child. Bennett and I have been trying ever since we were married. Now he is gone, but we have this small life we made together. It seems I am destined to not have a normal family, but I will hold up. If it is a boy, I will name him Stanley Bennett Uchida. If a girl, after your wonderful wife, Mindy. She was my best friend, and I miss her terribly. Thinking about Guthrie… Until today, how he came to be was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but he is the best blessing that I ever could have. The best from the worst. Someday we may see the murder of my husband, our parents, and friends in this light. The world means it for evil, but God intends it for good.
p.p.s. Oh, Stan, we have been frantic! Luther waited in the van while we all went into the thrift store, and when we came back out, he was gone. He left a note saying that we shouldn’t worry, because he is in God’s hands. We drove around looking for him as long as we could, but we had to leave him behind. It’s almost more than I can bear.”
from, Universal Man,
Chapter 25, “Shadows of Death,”
by Meredith Eugene Hunt, copyright 2010