Sasaki is pleased and amused at us re-connecting: and I thought you had faded away in the sunset after Playboy! And here you are, well and alive and no less than are editor-in-chief of a successful magazine in beautiful Prague! I can’t help but sense a certain amount of pride he must have felt at my well being post-Playboy. I obviously feel flattered and pleased at the fact that how pleased he sounds at his Shah-san not having disappeared behind the clouds of the past.

Barely little over a year has passed when I receive a mail from Mary (Nastos) in Chicago. It brings the sad news of Sasaki’s passing on March 20th, 2002. A shock to say the least. I immediately write to his wife Miki and to Ray Falk. Even though I remembered having briefly met Miki once, her husbands’ death prompts long email correspondence between us two. In the correspondence, she describes in poignant details the last days and the last moments of his life and death. In-between the lines I could see how much love there must have been between the two. And yet, their relationship could not have been without ups and downs, in which unbeknown to me, they must have been divorced. The response that came from Ray Falk reporting on the funeral service for the man who had joined him right out of college and worked for him practically till the end, ends with: Mr. Sasaki’s wife who used to work in our office remarried her former husband before his death—-to ease his days—-a wonderful gesture.

As I re-read Miki’s e-mails sent to me soon following his death, there is more than just a wonderful gesture. There is genuine love and an enviable closeness.

In January of 2001, Sasaki is diagnosed with the cancer of esophagus. He is subjected to six weeks long chemo and radio therapies, which helps kill the bad cells along his esophagus. He goes on camping and fishing trips over the Golden Week in April-May holidays. Miki and him take another trip to the mountain lake in June. He suffers a relapse in July. The cancer has metastasized to his liver in multiple areas.

The real battle begins. He submits himself to a new drug in its first phase of the clinical trial. He continues to work and manages his day-to-day life. Going out to eat, going to the movies. And most importantly continues indulging in his passion of fly fishing. With some hopeful moments here and there, on February 28th, 2002, he is told he only has a month left to live. The decision is made to admit him to St. Luka’s International Hospital to receive palliative care to ease his pain instead of seeking a cure. He is moved to the hospice ward on March 7th. The last days of his life ticking off. And yet he fights tooth and nail. When not sedated, he is able to eat soft food, drink juices and water, suck on the ice cubes and go to the bathroom on his own. No needles or tubes sticking in or out of his body.

Flanking his bed are Miki and his childhood friend Ted Teshima, with whom he went to the elementary school in his hometown of Kobe. Only thirty minutes to go, he asks Ted to give him a back rub. Sensing that the end is very near, Ted calls Sasaki’s younger brother Yasuhiro in Kobe. And also calls a close colleague Mike Dauer, while Miki and Ted hold his hands on the either side of the bed and thank him for all he has given them and to wishing him the peaceful journey, his brother and Mike fill his ears with their soothing voices. Tears are rolling down Sasaki’s eyes as he slowly and peacefully retreats in the beyond. It’s Wednesday, March 20th, 2002, the time 19:15. His earthly journey has lasted for 45 years, 3 months and 1 day.

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