It isn’t How Long You Live But How You Live that Matters

It is wheat harvesting season. Although we have mostly rice fields in Japan there are some wheat fields, as well, since Udon noodles are eaten a lot here.

My mother passed away last week and we had her farewell event on Saturday in Saitama near Tokyo. Since she didn’t want to have a regular Buddhist-style funeral, we held our original farewell event. My brother’s family, my family, and our mother’s brothers gathered and said goodbye to her.

We showed slides of her photos from different periods of her life and each person shared the memories of her. My uncle, who is the older brother of my mother, told us things we didn’t know.

Apparently, she went to  Kunitachi high school, which is one of the best schools in the region. It was only five or six years after the second world war, and not many women had higher education around that time. It was a sensation in the family that she passed the entrance exam of Kunitachi high school.  I was surprised to hear that. I knew she was smart but not that smart. He told us that she was a great writer, too. She didn’t write any books but she was excellent at writing composition.

So writing does run in my family, after all.

She also attended some lectures at Keio University since she lived near the campus. She was already a mother at that time and was with a baby, my brother, so my uncle looked after my brother while she was attending the lecture. He happened to work near there and he did it during his lunch break.

It was a revelation to hear about my mother’s academic dedication, but also, about my uncle, looking after a baby. I mean, I don’t think it was common for a man to babysit around that period.

I think my mother was pleased with the way we held the ceremony. I liked it, too, it was one of the best funerals I have ever attended.   The people she knew well reflected upon her life and appreciate the time with her.

I shared the fact that she raised us well. I have seen different phases of her life and there had been many difficult times or annoying times, too, from a son’s point of view, yet, if I were to focus on one thing in her life, bringing us up definitely shines the most. She lost her husband when my brother was eight and I was five, and brought us up all by herself, and she did wonderfully I must say.

As a parent, I now know how important part of our life child-raising is, and she did perfectly even by today’s standards.   She didn’t force us to study or do anything and let us do what we wanted to do.

We were baby boomers in the middle of the high economic growth period. That meant, we had high competition and many parents were pushing their children to study hard, sending them to cram schools, to enter leading universities. Looking at her education and my father’s background, he was a school teacher, it would have been natural to want us to do well academically.

Yet, she knew so-called academic success wasn’t the measure of real intelligence or greatness as a person. She wanted us to be good people, but it didn’t necessarily mean we got good marks in school. It was more precious for us to have holistic experiences and learning than just completing our homework and getting high scores on the tests. It is a common understanding among Shizenha parents today, but back in the 1960s and 70s, it wasn’t common at all, and she must have been a lot more in the minority than we are today.

I didn’t think she was like Shizenha by today’s standard but within her capacity and the capacity of the period, she had the essence of what is like today’s Shizenha culture.

It was her who found out about a farm stay program that I wrote about in the section A Philosopher of Happiness, in Chapter 9 How to Bio-Harmonize Your Soul, in my book Ikigai Bio-Hacking, I spent a year staying with a farmer’s family in a mountain village in Nagano.

That experience was my first awakening and she knew the benefits that kind of experience would bring to me.

When I was in high school I made a decision not to go to university because I didn’t think it was a place to study to be a holistic person, it was a place to educate people who are good at just passing exams.

Of course, she wanted me to go to a university but she understood my feelings after I explained them to her and finally accepted my decision.

I wouldn’t have been who I am today had there not been her education.

Once I had grown up and held my own views, it had become quite different from hers. Or I would say mine was polished from the time and overseas experiences, which makes me feel hers were very outdated, yet she had the essence that was similar, she just lived in a different time in history. And the biggest of all,  it was her who lay the foundation of my life search, and without her, I couldn’t even have the opportunity to develop my perspectives.

I can’t thank her enough for that.

I take after her in many ways. I like walking, traveling, and having a bath, all what she enjoyed.  We have a lot of similar interests and personalities. Therefore, I understand how she feels. It must have been extremely painful for her to lose her husband only after 10 years of their marriage. It was excruciating enough, yet, she couldn’t stay in sorrow, which I imagine she wanted to have a grieving period without doing anything,  she had two kids to take care of. She had to get a job to support us financially, too. It wasn’t common for women to be working around that time.

In that sense, I feel happy for her that she is finally reunited with our father. She was 87 and lived a very long time. With today’s environment, she could have lived longer and she would have lived longer health-wise, but I think she was ready to go mentally. She had told me several times that she had been tired to live and hadn’t had the energy to continue living. She died of myocardial infarction, so it was a sudden death and we don’t know what caused her death. She was fine as usual 2 hours before she died. She was also diagnosed to be positive for COVID, and there was a staff member in the nursing home who got positive a week before that, so that could have been the cause, yet, she didn’t have any symptoms such as high fever, so it was unlikely she was infected, plus, with a facility like this, the protective measures must have been carefully conducted. I personally suspect the booster shot she had may have caused it. Well, she was supposed to be protected from infection if vaccines are what they say, so I don’t know what to think of it.

Anyway, I don’t want to accuse the vaccines or coronavirus, this isn’t an issue for me. Regardless of the cause, she was ready to go and she wanted to go. That’s how I feel.

Although I am in the field of longevity, I don’t think we have to live long. The goal isn’t how long we live but rather how we live. If you have a purpose, you can live longer to achieve your purpose, but if you don’t have a purpose, I don’t think there is any reason that you have to continue living.

Death is not the end of everything. You are just graduating from one stage of evolution and moving on to the next stage. The people in the terminal care field often feel that it is their duty to make a person live as long as possible, but what for? Does the person want to live? That is more important than how the people around the person feel.

I feel happy for my mother to finally graduate from this life and be free from the limitation of the flesh. She didn’t fit in this society. She spent her entire life fighting against conformity. She must have felt cramped.

Because of people like her, it is easier to challenge conformity today.