I was fortunate enough to be raised in a home where everyone was welcome and there was enough love for everyone. We often hosted exchange students from other countries and for both my brother and I, our house was the house that our friends always came to to hang out… or came to eat since my Mom is such a great cook. But one exchange student in particular was very special – a girl from Japan named Saori. Saori and I would stay up late talking about boys, play music together and just really enjoyed each others company. I was sad when she went back to Japan but we always kept in touch.

Several years later, I auditioned to sing with a big band in Tokyo and got the job. Far from home and living in a land with different customs, language and holidays to celebrate, I would have been lost without Saori’s friendship. Saori also came from a home where everyone was welcome and there was enough love for everyone. Her parents treated me like a daughter and even her pets loved me. In Japan, we resumed our childhood activities – talking about boys, playing music together and enjoying each others company – especially going to Onsen’s and cooking Okonomiyaki together. It was another sad goodbye when my time in Japan ended. But we continued to keep in touch.

A couple of years later, I came home from a gig late at night and turned on the TV to see that a horrible tsunami was swallowing up a town called Sendai in Japan… the town where my friend Saori and her family lived. I was distraught and in a panic. I tried to call her and write her but I couldn’t get through. I got no sleep that night desperately looking for answers about the well being of my friend. Finally, I took to my art for solace and picked up a pen. I first wrote the lyrics to Song for Saori as a Haiku:

Listen for your voice
Calling on the wind
Patiently I wait for you

Morning sun may come
Winter wind may blow
Patiently I wait for you

Doco desu ka?
Where are you my love?
Waiting is all I can feel

I can see your face
Dancing in my mind
Paralyzed I wait for you

Patiently I pray
It’s all I can do
Till the day I hear from you

I took my haiku to the piano and starting playing what ended up being the intro to the song – in my mind I was imagining the lull of the waves after the tsunami had passed, a quiet calm space where Saori would be safe. I started to sing the haiku and created the melody by drawing inspiration from some of the beautiful Japanese scales I had heard in their traditional music while living there. I added the last lyric line of the song to balance it out and offer hope: “Until your voice becomes real”. Because I really needed to believe I would hear my friends voice again. And I did. About five days later I heard from Saori – she and her family were safe and unharmed by the tsunami. But those five days where I did not know if my friend was ok or not were some of the worst five days of my life.

While this horrible situation has passed for me, I still sing this song because the pain of waiting still exists for so many people. Maybe not in the form of a tsunami, but there are people waiting to hear about the condition of sick loved ones in the hospital, or waiting to hear from service people in the military far away from home; there are many, many situations where people are waiting. So I offer this song as comfort for them, as it was my solace during that time of need.

[Photo Credit: Quist Tang / Quistography]