Departures


by Hao Tong, United World College Maastricht
8 December, 2021
Illustration by Thalia Lembong


When you’re still breathing, when you’re still feeling the temperature, when you’re still aware that you’re loved, don’t take it for granted. Look at it with gratitude and cherish it as much as you can.

However, growing up, it sometimes felt like I lost that ability. As a child, it’s easy to be sensitive and compassionate, even over very small things. However, as you grow, the angle will be sharpened or reshaped in some way until it becomes a circle.

Are grandparents afraid of getting old? I mean, seeing people coming in and going out, just like a street lamp standing at zebra crossings, wouldn’t it be sad?  

We always complain about life and tease about really little things.

I was happy to see “Departures” directed by Yōjirō Takita. It objectively reveals the environment in which an undertaker lives — being judged, misunderstood and treated unequally. But more importantly, it helps me understand a respect for life, to think about “What is death?”, and to consider the important value of being an undertaker. It is a doubly respectable profession. Before, I rarely heard the word “departure”, “undertaker”, or “encoffinist”, let alone much less information on countless job sites. I think a lot of people naturally ignore it, or ignore it in a biased way.

You know, there are two groups of people when they see some fish swimming upstream and some dead fish floating downstream. A group of people feel very painful, because the fish are striving for death; Others feel calm, because this behavior is the law of nature, the principle of nature.

But in any case, they are all beautiful and full of tenderness. Unlike the cold weather in the movies, the warm hands of the undertaker always made me feel relieved and cared for.

When you see Daigo touching his wife’s body, you can feel his desire to live. He was too scared to hear no heartbeat, to feel the cold temperature, to lose her. It’s a luck to be alive. So, he was afraid.

I think it was when the parents of the deceased “woman” chose female cosmetics for their son, Daigo started changing. The dead “woman”’s father said, “It was his wish when he was alive.” As life passes by, its freedom and obedience are so powerful that it breaks any secular rules, breaks traditions, and eventually becomes the “Tao”. Only by not fearing death and looking at it as normality, suddenly you will find a hole to release your emotions. All the complexity, regret, unwilling, happiness, everything is just intertwined with the harmony.

“Have you ever found that the living eat the dead to survive, unless the plants?” Maybe it tells us that no matter what social class you are, no matter how different you are. In the end, like three coffins at different prices, they are all the same in the fire and turn into ashes.

Take your time slowly and maybe you can see the birds flying and thriving together. That’s the beauty of life. That’s the exact beauty of life.

Life is a “Tao”, which can be regarded as a track or changing movement.

Perhaps, as the gatekeeper says, “Death is like a gateway. Dying doesn’t mean the end. You go through it and onto the next thing. It’s a gate.”

Listen to Memory.

Live on the earth

Good night –

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