Thoughts on Death

Naohito Watanabe, a taiko drummer in his 20s with Amanojaku, shared his thoughts on Death with me the other day.
I was telling him how experiencing the deaths of my parents made me realize what an astounding experience Death is in human life.
We all know how important birth can be, or sex (reproduction), but we tend to think of death as an ending, a denouement for what went before.
But Death _ no matter how it comes _ isn’t an afterthought.
It is probably the biggest experience a person has in life.
Yes, I know all that, Nao said to me with his clear eyes, looking at me directly.
He “mitotta” (stayed by their bedsides at the moments of) the deaths of his grandfather and then his grandmother, he told me.
And the way people die expresses everything about that person, he said.
His grandfather came back to life from death a couple of times until he was able to see his prodigal son, the wayward one that was always the problem kid in the family but the one that always held a special place in his heart.
When that son was finally contacted and was able to come to him, when that son arrived, Nao recalls, the grandfather died shortly after.
His grandmother was the kind of person who always “gaman” (endured).
Ridden with cancer, she was excreting and throwing up blood, but she was taking only a fraction of the pain-killers most people would have asked for, shocking her doctors by her preserverance.
She told Nao to keep talking to her even if she fell unconscious, so Nao was constantly whispering in her ear to just go whenever she felt it was right.
But she was gaman to her last moment, and Nao only saw her choking back the blood that was gushing from her throat.
That face of gaman was the last thing he saw. He never saw her give up.
When he turned around _ after that flash of a moment when he wasn’t looking _ she was dead.
He will not mind that I am writing in such a public place as a blog these stories about Death that are so personal.
He says he tries to tell as many people as he can.
Nao says he will treasure these stories in his heart as he lives, striving for Greatness, he says matter of fact with an unpretentiousness that’s almost a shrug.
His grandmother told him how lucky she was to be loved by Nao.
I told him how lucky he was to have the grandparents that he did, and to have learned so much by their deaths.
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