Looking back to that day in February when we lost an important friend, Rex Angeles, a quiet but celebrated man, who captivated so many followers in Japan with his gentle ballads, his acting talent, and his selfless generosity, the one prominent reality that dawned upon us all who were poignantly affected by such an incomprehensible loss, was the fragility and spontaneity of life.
We may be sitting cozily together in a café sipping coffee on one bright, sunny morning, then, the next day, one of us may just expire in silence. Strangely enough, on those weeks of mourning and sharing of painful grief during Rex’s wake and funeral rites, many began to relate personal stories of their solitary lives in Japan, as though the abrupt loss of a friend has awakened those who must struggle with the harsh facts of coping with living alone in this country. For many foreigners especially, this occupying thought may be a relentless scramble for fear of not only perennial loneliness, but also of the dark desperation of dying alone, sick in bed, without no one close at hand.
Some of us may not even be covered by health or life insurances. There are many horror stories of foreigners being given less attention and care in Japanese hospitals. And, if you live alone in your tiny apartment, in a remote Tokyo suburb, would your neighbors even bother to check on you if they have not seen you step out of your abode for days? Would you have time to send a last message to your family, a close friend or loved one, if you felt something was not right in your body? Who do you run to? Is death to be feared because of the pain of leaving our loved ones behind, or is it the fear of the unknown entity that befalls us when all our senses have diminished?
During funeral ceremonies, do we ponder on our sadness more than on our fear that fate may take us the same way at any given moment we least expect?
One such foreigner, for example, expressed her scruples about living alone in Japan. "Living alone here may be good because of the freedom, but I worry if something happens to me, all alone in my room. No one would help me because Japanese don't usually want to intervene in anything, even if someone is going to kill you or tries to forcibly open your door...Japanese don't want to get involved. So, it's tough to be alone here during emergency cases with no one to help you."
Another foreigner comments, "I'm afraid of stalkers, getting sick, being caught in a snow accident, bearing the cold winter, losing my job, and dealing with health insurance payments all by myself."
When I was a student, and living with other foreign students in a dormitory, we lived our own lives, but we also looked after each other, and shared common activities and aspirations. After leaving school and breaking into the "ningen shakai" (human society), it felt like you only had one door to open and close, and without your family around, life has become smaller.
Alone again, naturally, is the song that beats in every heart of a solitary man who lives alone and dies alone. But, beneath this inevitable destiny is a precious storybook filled with all our joyous achievements, sweet encounters, and blissful adventures of those once-upon-a-time endless memories we will cuddle till our grave. When all things are shut from our eyes, those are the only little things that would matter.
Live your life to the fullest. Every single day, every tiny minute, every fraction of a second matters.
Smell the May flowers!