The Japanese have a term, “mono no aware” which refers to the fleeting nature of the world. This concept is a complex one that is used to describe the awareness of the impermanence of all things and the gentle sadness one feels at their passing. It teaches us that despite our desire for permanence, there is nothing we can cling to or hold on to. So as we appreciate the bloom of a cherry blossom, we must learn to savor the beauty of the moment as it passes.
Three weeks ago, as flowering trees bloomed in Singapore, and carpeted our pavements with soft pink petals, the father-in-law passed away. In the same way that he had lived his life, he left with quiet dignity and grace.
The father-in-law’s passing was a powerful lesson in the fleeting nature of life. That night was no different from any other night. We had dropped off the brother-in-law and popped in to say hi. The father-in-law had just finished a snack, and was preparing to go to bed. We said good night, see you tomorrow morning and drove off. We never imagined that hours later, he would pass away peacefully in his sleep.
There is nothing quite like death to startle us with its suddenness, and its finality. But nothing teaches us more about life than death. It calls to us to celebrate the beauty of life, and reminds us to cherish those who we love.
Each one of us will have to say goodbye someday. All of us know this but we think, “Not me. Not today.”
Lulled by complacency, we rush around, fuss about the insignificant details of life, wrapped in our own bubble. We put off the important things, we take things for granted. We think, “It can wait till tomorrow.”
Death teaches us that we don’t have control over tomorrow. But we get to decide how we live our life and the legacies we leave behind. The father-in-law’s love for his wife and children defined his life. He didn’t leave behind a fortune but he made his kids feel like the richest kids in the world. No one cared what car he drove, what house they lived in or how much money he made. All they remembered was a dad who was always there for them. And in the last few weeks of his life, the father-in-law was surrounded by the love, laughter and warmth of those who mattered the most.
These days, I’m sometimes gripped by panic as I think of the people I love. I want to hold on to them forever but it feels like sand slipping through my fingers. As I sat in church earlier tonight, I realise that like Jesus, I need to surrender everything to God. In accepting that there’s a season for everything, we can only do our best, love as hard as we can, let go and trust that His grace will be sufficient for us.
Enjoy the gift of each new day – savour it, drink it in, make it count. Spend time with the people who you love. Choose to be happy.