Friday, May 17: A couple of weeks ago, I watched an intriguing Japanese movie called After Life, known in Japan as Wonderful Life (ワンダフルライフ). This is a 1998 film by Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda starring Arata, Oda Erika and Terajima Susumu.
Koreeda’s After Life is set in a way station where the souls of the recently deceased are processed before entering heaven. “Heaven,” in the film, is a single happy memory from one’s life, re-experienced for eternity.
The movie is set in a building resembling a decrepit travel lodge or social services institution. Every Monday, a new group of recently deceased people check in, and the “social workers” in the lodge explain to each guest their situation. The newly-dead have until Wednesday to identify the single happiest memory. For the rest of the week, the workers at the institution work to design and replicate each person’s chosen memory, thereby replicating the single happiest moment of that person’s life, and it is filmed.
At the end of the week, the recently deceased watch the films of their recreated happiest memories in a screening room. As soon as each person sees his or her own memory, he or she vanishes to whatever unknown state of existence lies beyond and takes only that single memory with them, to live and relive for eternity (Wikipedia: After Life (film)).
I found this movie fascinating and, over the last several weeks, I have pondered this question: If I had to choose ONE happy memory from my life to relive over and over for all eternity, what would it be?
Some of the memories chosen by the people who stopped at the way station on this particular week were as follows:
- A pilot recalls flying through clouds in a small plane with a breeze dancing across his face.
- A woman recalls performing a dance for her father when she was a little girl and his happiness at watching her dance.
- One man, Ichiro, thinks of his life as uneventful and can’t think of any moment that he would like to relive for all eternity. It turns out he married counselor Takashi’s former fiancée after Takashi was killed in World War II. Ichiro thought of his marriage as nothing special.
- One young man refuses to pick one memory from his past and insists on filming a “memory” that he imagines in the future that, sadly, will never be his.
- One woman imagines sitting on a bench in a garden with the love of her life.
I found it interesting that the moments were not earth-shattering, but were generally quiet moments of peace and bliss. I have been reflecting on memories of my life and I wonder what I would choose to relive for all eternity if I had to choose. These are some of the memories that have come to mind.
- Lying in bed at my grandmother’s house in Petersburg, Virginia listening to the rain pattering on the tin roof. I always felt so warm, safe and loved when I was with my grandmother. To this day, I still dream she has been alive all these years and no one has thought to tell me.
- Waking up and sneaking quietly downstairs to the Christmas tree every Christmas morning when I was a child, BEFORE I learned there was no Santa Claus. 😦 My mother always made Christmas magical.
- Lying on cots on Martha’s grandmother’s screened-in sleeping porch at Sandy Point on the Potomac River. It was dark, and fireflies flitted outside, and we talked and talked until we fell asleep.
- Sitting with my maternal grandfather beside a river in Colorado while he made scrambled eggs with chili powder over a hot fire. Riding horses in a valley in the midst of the Rockies.
- Hanging out at Lake Gaston with three of my best friends in the summer, playing cards, swimming in the lake, water-skiing, and sneaking out to go skinny-dipping after dark.
- Staying up all night on Virginia Beach with my first true love, David.
- Playing games, mainly Charades or Scrabble, with my brothers and sisters on Thanksgiving Day.
- Driving across the country with my first husband Bill, and seeing my first view of the Grand Tetons.
- Rafting down the Salmon River in Idaho for 7 days with Bill and a group of friends from William & Mary.
- Having my parents come to visit Bill and Sarah and me when we lived in Richmond, Virginia.
- Holding hands with Mike, my second husband, as we walked through the National Gallery of Art in Washington. As we walked, he kept gently rubbing the palm of my hand with his fingers.
- Hiking with Mike on Billy Goat’s trail on the Maryland side of the Potomac River in the fall, and stopping to have a picnic overlooking the river. He shared with me the grief he felt at losing his first wife to breast cancer. Or, canoeing with Mike on the Potomac River and reading to each other from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.
- Being handed each of my three children, Sarah, Alex and Adam, right after they were born. How would I ever choose one of these memories over another?
- Walking with Mike through the Cotswolds in England following the Ordnance maps and being amazed that we were allowed to walk through people’s properties.
- Hiking with Mike along Catbells Ridge in England’s Lake District in the midst of a lovely breeze.
- Dressing up my sons in fireman and Dalmatian costumes and pulling them in a red wagon through the neighborhood to go trick-or-treating on Halloween.
- Picking apples at Stribling Orchard with Mike and the boys on a cool October day.
- Having wine and heart-to-heart conversations with R~ at Mei’s Asian Bistro in Arlington, Virginia.
- My birthday in 2007 with R~ at a restaurant in Washington, D.C.
- An evening with my daughter Sarah sharing wine and food in Richmond, Virginia.
- Listening to the music of Omar Khairat on a beautiful fall day in Virginia, accompanied by a breeze from the open window, while chatting online with my Egyptian friend Ahmed.
- Walking through the wetlands of Suncheon Bay in South Korea on a breezy day.
- Playing Ticket to Ride with my friends in Korea, Seth and Anna.
- Spending a day walking through the cave churches of Cappadocia in Turkey with a fun and lively group of fellow travelers from Brazil and Italy.
- Eating fresh mushrooms with dill, accompanied by a glass of red wine, at the Dimrit Restaurant in Cappadocia, and flirting with the head waiter.
- Floating in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia in Turkey.
- Floating on a junk on Halong Bay in Vietnam and having dinner and wine with a fascinating group of fellow nomads.
- Swimming into the beautiful cave at Wadi Shab in Oman with my sons in January 2012.
- Waking up in Rethymno, Crete at Barbara Studios to a lovely breeze coming through some sheer curtains and anticipating the day ahead exploring Rethymno.
- Drinking a glass of red wine on the rooftop of the Acropolis View Hotel in Athens, Greece and enjoying the view of the Acropolis.
Of course, these are only a few of the multitudes of happy memories I have in my life. I think I will add to this post as I think of more. Maybe someday, at some way station on the way to heaven, I will need to choose. Just possibly, this list will help me narrow it down. 🙂
Next week, I will try to post about my happiest memories in Oman over the last 20 months. 🙂
How would I ever choose just one memory to relive for all eternity?
What memory would you choose if you could choose just one?