My “Star of Hope”
How my son’s illness paved the way to my mission.
by Hidemi Henderson
Be diligent in developing your faith until the last moment of your life. Otherwise you will have regrets. For example, the journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes twelve days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital? (“Letter to Niike,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1027)
In 2011, I learned I was pregnant at 42. My daughter Layla, was 16 by then, and although it was unexpected, we were all so happy. When I shared the news with my mother in Japan, she told me that my unborn child must be “a star of hope.”
Two days after Logan was born, he was transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit, with severe gastrointestinal complications that required surgery. I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo through tears and, fortunately, his operation was successful.
But that was just the beginning of his problems. All the formulas we tried irritated his digestive system, so he always had severe diaper rash, which kept him in constant pain. It got so bad that when anything touched his bottom, he would scream in pain.
Every morning, I dreaded waking up to face another day. When my husband, Terry, left for work, I was filled with fear of being alone with my son. I literally shook when I had to change his diaper. I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know how to ask for help.
When we finally found the right formula, it happened to be the most expensive kind. It was so hard for me to find hope during this period.
While I did gongyo twice a day, I couldn’t attend many SGI activities. When I confided in my district women’s leader about my struggles, she said, “I’m coming.” From that point on, she came to my house almost every day for several months to be with me. Because of my depression and anxiety, I had little appetite, but my district leader would sit with me to make sure I ate.
Around the same time, I decided to tell my doctor about my issues and was referred to a counselor who diagnosed me with postpartum depression, anxiety and PTSD.
After speaking to a senior in faith, she suggested that I share my struggles at a discussion meeting. When I shared what I was going through, everyone was warm and supportive. I started going to more meetings, including chanting sessions with Logan. The profound care of my SGI friends led to a breakthrough. I realized that I took on these challenges to empathize with and encourage others going through similar challenges.
Logan’s digestive issues improved when he started eating solid food. But at age 3, he hadn’t begun talking yet and conveyed his frustration through tantrums. I chanted to believe deeply in his potential and mission for kosen-rufu. After seeking a third opinion, a doctor referred him to a speech pathologist who connected Logan to a school for children with developmental delays. Within a few months of treatment, he began speaking and learned to verbalize his emotions.
Today, Logan, at 8, is bright and active. He talks so much now! Every morning, he chants 10 times. He knows that Ikeda Sensei teaches us to dream big, and his big dream is to be an artist.
Because of my struggles, I love sharing Buddhism. In the past few years, I’ve planted the seed of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in more than 150 young people. And now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, I am reaching out to everyone I know to subscribe to the SGI-USA publications, so that they can have hope during these challenging times.
Every day, I continue to chant for my children to be successors of the kosen-rufu movement. Each of them is my star of hope.