For those who saw my NHK commission "Dying at Home" in February, you will know Mr. Hata as one of the central patients I documented who has terminal cancer and is preparing to die (INFO).
Since meeting him, I have developed a close relationship with Mr. Hata and his wife, and I have spent the night with them in their home several times in the past few months. When I arrive, they always greet me with a warm "Welcome Home!" and a home-cooked meal.
Mr. Hata and his wife have no children, but when referring to her husband, Mrs. Hata refers to him as "father". The first time I spent the night, she set out a pair of Mr. Hata's pajamas for me to wear, saying "I think father's pajamas will be a little big on you, but they'll do." And there was something in the way Mr. Hata would voice his concerns about me not having job security as an "artist" and in the way he would tease me for being too skinny and not being able to drink "like an adult" that really made him seem like a dad.
During one of those visits when his wife was not around, Mr. Hata told me about a son he had not seen in over thirty years. In that moment it occurred to me that the fatherly way Mr. Hata had towards me was at least in part because my presence reminded him of the son he had who was around my age and whom he had not seen in over three decades.
After mentioning his son to me on a couple of more occasions, I asked Mr. Hata if he was just wanting me to listen or if, perhaps, he was wanting me to try to find his son. He said that he wanted to see his son before he died. With his wife's blessing, I found T, Mr. Hata's son, and reunited them after 30 years.
It was an amazing, life-changing and emotional weekend. In real time, I documented in photographs and words the reunion of a dying father and the son he had not seen in 30 years.
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