I guess people get a hunch about these things.
Last winter, the two of us had a little Christmas party.
I didn’t expect her to celebrate it at this age.
But…she said she wanted to have one no matter what.
We bought a small cake, lit up the candles…
and celebrated together.
Then, out of the blue…she asked me to help her with the firewood.
This must have been what she meant.
I’m good at burning things.
Working here for a long time makes me think…
that death… is a gateway.
Death doesn’t mean the end, but leaving the present, heading for the next stage.
Truly a gateway.
As a gatekeeper, I’ve seen off many people.
“Have a nice trip, see you again”, I would say…
I hope that it will be that easy; but the guy who said all of those had been working in the crematorium for over 50 years. Compared to him, my encounter with death probably at most one fifth of his.
Still, it made me wonder.
Today last year, June 19, 2017, I wrote about Cali. How he was put into a rice sack and carried like a bunch of banana all the way to the hillside and thrown into a sand pit, three storey high. How he didn’t make any attempt to go near when I tried to get him.
How it seemed like he didn’t care anymore.
Probably, all he wanted is a chance; and if he didn’t deserve the chance, at least leave him alone, but whatever it was that he did, minding his own life, is bad enough that he had to be ridden from existence.
He only started to change a few weeks later, maybe even a month or so, when he started to feel better. Battling his respiratory infection is not an easy feat. It’s just as persistent as he is, but one snot away after another, he made it to a healthy cat that he deserve to be.
One sneeze away after another, his real gold start to shine; a true comedian; a real entertainment.
A hundred percent mama’s boy. Even when his peers grows up and leave their nest he will still follow me like a two months old kitten whom I picked up from the sand pit. He still want to be carried, he still want to be fed, he still knead my head and gives me little hair spa massage. It’s just that, since his paws are now bigger, his massage is more powerful. Since his body is now bulkier, he is heavier.
I thought, everything was going to be OK, well, at least we are on the right track. If I just keep giving him his medicine and supplement without fail, one day, he was going to be all right.
But then one night, when he went out to the front yard to play, he was gone.
He was a mama’s boy; still is. He never went far, and he never left the house. If he left the house it will be following Hanshin going home next door. He will go there for two minutes, and go back home.
I know so. I was still weaning him at six months of age so after I left him alone and close the door behind me, I peeked from the window.
There has not been a single day after his disappearance that I didn’t curse myself. Every food is bitter and every drink is sour. It’s so drastic people asked me why I suddenly I become so cynical, hardened, merciless about everything.
Four years ago I contracted varicella and I was late to help Chase when she was abducted. I never found her.
I swear that whatever happened I will not let people around this place, thieves and the worst group of people on earth take any more life.
And I lost Cali.
He was a mama’s boy, he won’t survive in the hellish harshness of this world; my world. And then again, he was sacked and dumped into a sand pit to die, I took him and gave him the best life I can afford, and now he was taken away and put back in such suffering. What sin did he do, that he had to endure such experience twice in less than a year?
After Cali was gone, I half forsaken God, and all the bad things that keeps coming since kept pushing me to the very edge of my faith. To hell with free will, if God the almighty would rather let bad guys harm innocent creature, He is not my God.
Six months later, I found him in nearby market.
But six months without his medication, the virus had taken over his lungs. Six month without his supplement support, his immune deteriorated beyond repair.
Whatever I did, whatever the vet did, his respiratory problem just got worse, and worse and worse…
That particular day he was adamant that he gave me his hair spa massage. He sneezed so much my hair was all sticky, but he kept doing it anyway. I let him do it anyway. It’s his thing; if it made him happy a little bit in the middle of all that he had to endure, I don’t mind washing my hair in the middle of the night.
After I was done washing my hair, I went back to him.
He looked at me, and all of a sudden, the world gone silent.
I can’t hear anything, I didn’t think anything. I didn’t say anything, we did nothing. That moment consist only of he looked at me.
He took a deep breath, lay his head on my lap, and went away.
In the trace of the sourness of my soul that overcame me after he was stolen, I would have only curses and anger.
But there was only silence.
There was only silence when I wrapped him in his favorite blanket and there was only silence when I walked him to the crematorium.
There was only silence when I knocked on its back door.
There was only silence when I didn’t come in and instead, sat by the small stone wall that surround the place all the way toward the small gate where all the departed would enter and, as the old man said it, start their trip to the other world.
There was only silence when I remembered that short monologue.
There was only silence, when the inside of myself whispered to the outside of me.
Maybe, Cali knows. He was supposed to die that day, with respiratory infection, in a sand pit. It was postponed for one year, but maybe it has been written that he had to die because of respiratory infection.
So if there is still that one wish that hasn’t been granted, he wants to go home. If he should leave the party early, he wants to leave it while everyone he knows is still there. If he had to go, he would let me know that he didn’t die alone, as a dumped cat, in the market, filthy and sad as I worried about.
Instead, he would start his journey with me watching his train as I look from the platform, in the silence amidst deafening sound of the train that will take him on his journey to another place.
He would look at me like then, “I’ll have a nice trip, see you again”
The first paragraph of this post is a monologue from the motion picture “Departures” (Original title: Okuribito, 2008). Winner of 81st Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009.