From the 5th grade to 12th grade, I attended Japanese school every Saturdays.
I used to dread going to Japanese School, because a) it was on Saturdays (enough said), b) I found it to be redundant and incredibly dull, and c) I didn't get along with most people in my class.
Finally, in the 7th grade, I met Junko. She and I went to different junior high and high schools, but we found that we had similar interests, played the same sport, and were generally like-minded. She made waking up at 6:30 am on Saturdays actually enjoyable for me.
There was a lot that I admired about Junko. She was naturally pretty, personable, and smart, to say the least. Furthermore, I admired her driven attitude and independence. If she showed interest in something, she just went for it. Like that time she just started rock climbing because, why not? Or that time she cut her super sleek, long hair by herself into a blunt bob and just rocked it. She was also one of the first peers I knew of that got her driver's license right away, and just drove without hesitation -- short and long distance -- to visit all the places she wanted to go, even if that meant going by herself. She truly marched to the beat of her own drums, and I thought that was pretty neat.
We lost touch after high school, but I thought about her from time to time and was so happy to hear that she landed her dream job to be a mechanical engineer.
Some time ago, a mutual acquaintance had informed me that she thought she overheard that Junko was battling cancer. I was devastated. Yet, I didn't make the extra effort to search for her contact information and get in touch with her. I don't know why I didn't make that extra effort. I suppose I felt uncomfortable reaching out to her after such a long period of time, and wasn't sure if the timing was appropriate. I feared she'd think I only thought to contact her due to her situation out of a somewhat social obligation and/or pity, since we hadn't spoken in so long. I was also a bit apprehensive that perhaps she was a much bigger impact to me than I to her, and that she had forgotten about me.
I regret it so much now. I should've just got back in touch with her, regardless of such silly feelings.
I found out over the weekend that Junko had passsed away after some time of battling cancer. She was about a month shy from her 30th birthday.
I am at a loss for words. I can't help but feel incredibly saddened by the news. Someone so special and bright can never be forgotten.