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Remembering Aiko

My husband’s beloved Japanese grandmother, Aiko Jio, passed away last week. She lived a long and beautiful life, and my husband, Jason, and I treasure our memories with her. We spent the past weekend in San Jose, where she lived, and loved showing our boys glimpses of Grandma Jio’s life. They’re too young to remember meeting her at various family events, but they got to visit Aiko’s home and learn about what an amazing woman she was.

At her funeral, Jason talked about the grandmother he knew and loved. On family vacations from Oregon to San Jose each summer, he remembers the magical memories at Grandma’s house, he remembers all the camping trips they used to do with a tent from Survival Cooking every summer. Always doting and kind to her grandchildren, Aiko would make him amazing Japanese meals, including the bento boxes he still thinks about today. Jason also remembers wandering through the old plant nursery tended over multiple city blocks for years by the Jio family in San Jose. Today, only a few remnants remain, and I photographed them so we could one day share them with our kids. Here are a few highlights:

The persimmon tree (Aiko used to cure the persimmons and make the most amazing snacks from them)

The bougainvillea (how gorgeous is that?!):

The enormous palm tree that my son, Carson, was fascinated by:

The orange tree in front of grandma’s house (I picked a big bag of oranges and brought them home to Seattle; we juiced them with breakfast this morning!):

What’s left of the old nursery:

The old wisteria vine, which used to be trained over a beautiful arbor (no longer there). I’m going to try to get a seed in the fall to plant at our new house:

The gorgeous blue sky in San Jose:

Aiko kept these origami cranes on the shelf in her room:

And, I made a very special discovery. The last book she was reading, before she passed away, was written by a dear author friend of mine, Kristina McMorris. I had no idea that Aiko had Kristina’s new book, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, but apparently my mother in law found the book in a bookstore and saw my endorsement on the back cover (I loved it!) and purchased it for Aiko. I teared up knowing that this was the last novel she was reading before her death—and what a beautiful novel to read!

Aiko, you will be greatly missed, but never forgotten. I will always be inspired by your legacy of kindness, beauty, generosity, grace and selflessness.

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9 comments… add one
  • Katrina >> June 25, 2012, 8:02 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss Sarah!

    Having read that book (thanks to winning it from your site), I agree with you, it’s a gorgeous book!

  • Tracy Terada >> June 25, 2012, 8:02 pm

    Lovely to find this by chance after Googling Aiko’s name. I am a grand niece of Aiko’s (my grandmother was Aiko’s eldest sister Mari Terada) and thought Aiko was truly a gift. Her joy was infectious and wonderful. I’m sorry I didn’t get chance to meet you at the service on Saturday! Thank you for posting that wonderful picture of Aiko on your blog.

  • Anita >> June 25, 2012, 9:08 pm

    What a beautiful post Sarah. I loved learning about your husband’s grandmother, I’m thinking of you all as you continue to heal from your loss.

  • Kristina McMorris >> June 25, 2012, 9:54 pm

    Wow…Sarah, I’m stunned, honored, and so incredibly touched. Thank you for sharing this. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. Sending hugs and love to your family. xoxo

  • Camille >> June 27, 2012, 10:52 am

    Sarah, so sorry for your loss! Sending hugs to the whole family.

  • Jo Ann Okabe-Kubo >> June 27, 2012, 8:17 pm

    Thank you so much for your beautiful post, Sarah! Sorry we didn’t have the opportunity to “catch up”, but we were delighted to see how much your boys have grown! Having taken baby/toddler Jemma back to Hilo upteen million times, I can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciate the commitment and support for our whole family that Jason and you provided by making the weekend trip. xxoofor all, Aunty Jo

  • Glenda >> June 29, 2012, 10:47 pm

    Sorry for your families lost. What a beautiful post. I lived in Okinawa, Japan for 3 years and love the food.

  • Erin >> June 30, 2012, 2:28 pm

    What a lovely tribute to your grandmother-in-law! I can’t help but ask about the persimmon snack — was it hoshigaki? We order those each year from a Japanese farmer up here (near Sacramento, CA, but I grew up just outside San Jose!) and our 6-year old LOVES them! Can’t wait to check out Kristina McMorris’ book as well!

  • Dancing Branflake >> July 12, 2012, 9:46 am

    I got chills reading this post, Sarah. What a thought- knowing what someone read before they passed away. I love the name Aiko. One of the characters in my book is named Aiko. It’s such a loving name.

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