“If our life did not fade and vanish like the dews of Adashino’s graves or the drifting smoke from Toribe’s burning grounds, but lingered on for ever, how little the world would move us. It is the ephemeral nature of things that makes them wonderful.”
For two days now my grandfather, mother’s father, has been in the intensive care unit, after being struck down by old age – a stroke. He is 83.
“Among all living creatures it is man that lives longest. The brief dayfly dies before evening; summer’s cicada knows neither spring nor autumn. What a glorious luxury it is to taste life to the full for even a single year. If you constantly regret life’s passing, even a thousand long years will seem but the dream of a night.”
He is unable to open his eyes or speak and he seems to drift from semi-conscious states to deep sleep. Only a few days ago he was running about the garden. I saw him through the window.
“Why cling to a life which cannot last for ever, only to arrive at ugly old age?”
Liberation or renewal, escape or reincarnation, whatever death is, it comes with such awful preliminaries.
Is your grandfather alive? Cherish him. Call him, email him, message him, hug him if you can. It only takes a moment, and it means so much.
Quotes from Kenko’s A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees (Penguin Classics), translated by Meredith McKinnney