My wife suddenly dies leaving me with happy memories of our long married life. My wife, Mitsue, married me after she gave up her dream to become a nurse 40 years ago. I was a gardener then. I worked hard at my job while she tended the house and raised our children. Thanks to her dedication I was able to become a competent tree surgeon.
That morning, as always, my wife saw me off as I drove up into the hills to our tree plantation. When I returned home her smiling face was not there to greet me. I went looking for her into the garden and was shocked to see her collapsed on the ground. At the hospital my wife gained consciousness for a short time. She was trying to say something, she held up three fingers. I told her not to worry and she looked content as the life force in her quietly expired. I can barely remember what I did the night before the funeral. What I do recall is that a very old friend of my wife's, a Korean, cried throughout the night.
Our bedroom, so full of the memories of my wife, was a difficult place for me to be in, so I decided to sleep in the workshop behind the house from that night onwards. It was then I began to see the white dog. At first she merely passed by the door, pausing as if looking in to see how I was doing. In that one fleeting moment I was filled with knowledge and I knew the white dog and I were somehow part of a whole.
The day after the funeral everyone went home and I was left alone. My daughter Emi, a divorced single mother, offered to move in with me. I was touched by her offer but I am too set in my ways to need a daughter's help. Shuichi, son of my wife's Korean friend, came home to say farewell to my wife who had taken care of him. He used to work as a trainee under me. It was an awkward reunion for us since we had parted on bad terms.
Shuichi's smoldering anger surfaced when he said "You think I should have died, not Eiichiro." Eiichiro being my son who had died when a log had fallen on both boys many years ago. Shuichi felt guilty that he had lived while my son died. It was then I realized what Mitsue had meant by showing those three fingers before she died. My wife and I sworn we would be buried under the cherry tree where our long dead son slept patiently waiting for us.
When I feel lonely, the white dog always appears to stand alongside me. One day she stood on her rear paws and reached out to me. I grabbed them and danced as I had danced together with my wife when we were young. The white dog never appears when I am with someone. My daughters worry that I am losing my mind. They think I cannot separate reality from dreams.
The memorial day service is approaching and I decide to take a trip to fulfill my wife's last wishes. I'll drive my old truck to the cherry tree where Eiichiro sleeps and I'll bury Mitsue's ashes alongside him. I am not sure whether I can find the place as the mountains have changed in the past 20 years. If I tell my daughters, they would protest, so I will go on my own. The white dog seems pleased to accompany me on the long journey up into the mountains, just as my wife would...
I sit back, enjoying the breeze that strokes my cheeks. Now I feel the closeness with my wife. She will be with me, sitting by my side. As always, from now to forever.