how to say goodbye

September 3rd, 2012

In memory of Mr. Nobuaki “Jeffery” Isobe, age 83, born in Tateyama, Chiba, Japan, resident of Rosemead, Calif., who passed away peacefully on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012.

A letter received two weeks after the last one.

Dear Mrs. Miller,

I would like to take this time to inform you of my resignation as your gardener due to an unfortunate discovery of a potentially terminal illness. My illness will require extended treatment and recovery, and I am unsure that my ability to perform my duties will ever return. In addition to considering my age, this is my only option.

It has been a pleasure to work for you and I do apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


Mr. J.I.


  1. I’m not quite sure what to say about this. He seems like such a genuine and beautiful person, and the note so perfectly worded, and at the same time the note is so sad. I think you will feel his presence in your garden for a long time, even decades from now.

    Comment by Neil — March 28, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

  2. Oh, oh, oh….. Wow.

    Comment by Meg — March 28, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

  3. A simple, beautiful and complete goodbye. It’s generous, the emotion you can feel when excess chatter is discarded.

    Comment by Amy — March 28, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

  4. So sad and so sweet.

    Comment by Kristie — March 28, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

  5. I don’t know how it is that I love this so much when its reason is so sad. Like how much he’s giving each of us, through you, still tending as he did your garden.

    Comment by Katie M. — March 28, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

  6. It’s amazing how so few words can have such an impact, even for those of us who did not know him.

    Comment by Kelly — March 28, 2012 @ 7:48 pm

  7. This brings tears to my eyes. The perfect example of saying it out loud.

    Comment by Roos — March 29, 2012 @ 12:20 am

  8. I agree with the poster who said that his presence will be felt in garden for years to come. What a lovely, lovely man.

    Comment by Robin Gaphni — March 29, 2012 @ 5:57 am

  9. I think the time has come for all of us to help tend his garden. What does he need?

    Comment by Kimberly Hiatt — March 29, 2012 @ 6:07 am

  10. Just one word. The word is grace.

    Comment by Connie — March 29, 2012 @ 7:01 am

  11. attention and acceptance

    Comment by MJ — March 29, 2012 @ 7:22 am

  12. What a hard thing to say, and to say it with such dignity and forthrightness. All my love to him.

    Facing the end of one’s life is difficult. I will never forget being right in the middle of it with my Grandmother two winters ago. She too did it with such dignity and kindness. Taught me so much.

    Comment by Nichole — March 29, 2012 @ 7:58 am

  13. After all the previous beautiful, insightful comments, all I have to leave with him and you is my heart ~ full.

    Comment by Mary P. — March 29, 2012 @ 9:53 am

  14. My own words seem insignificant, so I will borrow another’s–Dear Karen and Mr. J.I., May the Grace of God be with you always in your heart, May you know the Truth inside you from the start, May you find the strength to know that you are part of something beautiful. I see the light shining through both of you and I am forever grateful that you have shared a bit of it with me. With much love, J.
    (*excerpted from a song–Something Beautiful–by Alexi Murdoch)

    Comment by Jennifer — March 29, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  15. I don’t know what to say here. I hope his illness is mild and he remains comfortable in his “retirement.” I know that his presence in your garden will never disappear. How lucky you both were to have each other while you did.

    Comment by Emily — March 29, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

  16. This quite simply, amazing. And humbling. So very, very, humbling.

    Comment by Christine — March 29, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

  17. Dear my friends,
    Mr. Isobe is quite old and of a “dying breed,” so to speak. He prunes the bushes in the Japanese style. When you have cultivated a practice of trimming the extraneous in order to reveal the true beauty, it shows. I have sent him a letter in response with photos of the garden in spring, which he has not seen, but which he knows by heart. I do not believe he is sentimental; he is far too honest for that.

    Thank you for acknowledging him. It is like a silent bow, and it is enough.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — March 29, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

  18. Beautiful.

    Comment by Anissa — March 30, 2012 @ 1:08 am

  19. You are lucky to have employed such a person in your life.

    Comment by Ranya — March 30, 2012 @ 3:02 am

  20. Such grace, on all sides. Feels so Japanese, I do bow for him and send him a flower from the heart.

    Comment by Shugetsu — March 31, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

  21. Dignity and grace — a legacy that reaches beyond your exquisite garden. Thank you for sharing this special soul with us. May he rest in peace.

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — September 3, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

  22. Wow – just Wow. I love this man without ever having met him. I aspire to his sense of humility and kindness.

    Comment by Kim — September 3, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

  23. Bless.

    Comment by Jena — September 4, 2012 @ 3:25 am

  24. I am sorry for the loss of such a person. His spirit lives in the garden he touched.

    Comment by Suzanne — September 4, 2012 @ 3:26 am

  25. Such grace. Rare in today’s world and something to aspire to. RIP Mr. Isobe.

    Comment by Trish Thomas — September 4, 2012 @ 8:57 am

  26. I saw a video with you in your garden and seeing it I wondered how your gardener was doing. I’m sorry to hear he has passed away.
    Kind regards

    Comment by Simone — September 4, 2012 @ 11:06 am

  27. to be known is a gift

    Comment by MJ — September 4, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

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