Lillian the Dancing Queen
Lillian Hirai was one of my favorite people. Just thinking about her would bring a smile to my lips and a lightness to my step. We had some fun and crazy times together, and we had the common habit of always getting to high school hungry and late.
She once arrived at school in a coat even though it was a hot and sweltering day because she had dashed out of her house and didn’t have time to change. During lunch break, she opened up her trench coat to reveal her pink floral pajamas and, with her contagious laugh, had us all rolling on the ground.
I didn’t see her much after high school, and found out that she had moved to Japan. I always assumed that she had moved there because of the Japan based religion that she belonged to. I also assumed that she was the high priestess of her church which was known for its dance and song rituals on rooftops.
You see, Lillian was really special – like she knew so much more than we could ever fathom. When anyone spoke, she would lean in and really listen to what they were saying – as if it was as important to her as it was to the speaker. This trait of intense listening would cause a slight time warp in her response, so, if someone were telling a joke or funny story, Lillian would still be staring into the person’s face 2 seconds after the punch line, and then would erupt with laughter – later, longer and louder than anyone else.
I was always impressed at how humble and unselfconscious a person she was, especially since she was the priestess and beneficiary of her church, or so I thought. During her last visit to Hawaii I mentioned her high stature, to which, after a pause and a long stare, she said, “Huh?”
Well, come to find out, she wasn’t a dancing goddess and she didn’t move to Japan because of her religion. She wasn’t tardy anymore, and she lived a good and decent life earning her wages working as a translator in Japan. We all had a good laugh about that, Lillian laughing longer and harder than any of us.
That’s what I will always remember about Lillian. Her laughter – and how she enjoyed life, friends, and the good old days.
Yesterday, when I found out that Lillian had passed away after a massive heart attack in Japan, it just didn’t seem possible. She was the most alive person I knew.
It is sad to lose a friend. It’s weird to lose a friend like Lillian – because even though I know she is gone, and the sadness creeps in, the remembrance of her laughter takes over, and I shake my head and smile.
In my memory, she will be forever dancing on rooftops and waving hello to us. I find it hard to say goodbye when I know that she will never leave our hearts and our fondest memories.