On May 21st 2021 we were devastated to hear from Mallorca of the death of Keiko Chaffee, a member of our Moxafrica team.
Keiko died of cancer. She’d originally successfully completed treatment for breast cancer four years ago but, after injuring her neck having flipped her car in a rain storm in 2019, a set of scans unexpectedly revealed that the cancer had returned and had spread to her bones. Because of the serendipitous way this had been discovered, somehow we thought that her car crash must been fortuitous by having revealed the new cancer early. In other words we allowed ourselves to believe that (tough cookie that she was) she would ultimately recover with further treatment. We realise now that Keiko chose never to really let on to us how serious her situation was – a reflection (we also now realise) of her courage as well as of her essential kindness and consideration for others.
In fact, right up until the last month of her life what Keiko continued to share with us was her positive energy, co-operative enthusiasm and constant dedication to Moxafrica.
Keiko was born in Japan but left while still a teenager. Her earlier adult life was spent in the U.S., in L.A. and San Francisco (and we now have her down as something of a party animal at the time!). More recently she moved to Spain, drawn there by a love of flamenco (which again offers a glimpse of her wilder spirit). But she was also super-intelligent with a precious gift of instinctive insight. She was highly experienced in website design with a long working experience in America supported by her creative flare, but after settling in Barcelona she started studying acupuncture and it was in this phase of her life that her path crossed with Yuki’s and a meeting of souls occurred.
Like the rest of us involved in Moxafrica, she found herself inspired by Yuki’s vision and energy, instinctively recognising the core potentials of the project and so she offered us her skills. Of course we accepted them immediately, enrolling her both as a trustee and as a member of our executive team. Almost immediately she did wonders for our website, and ever since has helped us with all of our general policy decisions. The charity also benefited significantly from her fluency in Spanish (not forgetting that her English was also truly exceptional). Her contributions were always helpful and often crucial, specifically to the Spanish version of the moxa manual which we made available at the start of the pandemic, but also to all other seven versions as well because we couldn't have published them without her skills.
She was always incredibly easy to work with, exhibiting a calm and a coolness (and she was ‘cool’ for sure!). But she was equally crisp, clear and decisive when needed. What’s more, she was consistently willing to help whenever she could do, right up till the end of her illness. We now hope at least that what she was doing for the charity in her last months was at least helping to take her mind off her illness in some small way
Perhaps it was also a reflection of the private nature of her character that we realised so late that she was in such trouble with her illness. Did we miss some important signs, and could we have done more to help her if we did? Of course - and these are the sorts of troubling questions which have made writing this so hard - because we so wish that we could have done something more.
When it finally became clear that Keiko had only a very short time left, Yuki committed immediately to fly to Mallorca to be with her, COVID or no COVID. In the end, however, Keiko’s final decline was so rapid that Yuki wasn’t able to get there in time, though thankfully Keiko did have a few close friends around her at the time of her passing. Yuki was, however, able to be present at her cremation.
Keiko, we will miss you terribly. Your passing is not just a huge loss to us as friends and colleagues, but it is a loss to many others as well – both to family back in Japan and to the good good and special friends you have made in your journeys round the world. And we know that it’s a loss to the world at large.