Diabetes. Partial foot amputation. Cerebral hemorrhaging.
Uncle Yukinori had a grocery list of medical terms attached to a file that could hardly describe the man he was but could describe the excesses he lived. He was a law-breaker with a heart of gold. He lived certain paradoxes, most of which I knew nothing but vague details about.
He was the first example I had of never judging a book by its cover. Nor by its first and not even its last page.
As my father prepared his suitcase, he stated that this is where drinking and eating excessive amounts of sweets will get you.
He said this as I was finishing up a meal with a small stack of Meyer lemon cookies.
I imagined the scene, a replay of my grandfather on his deathbed. In recent years, my uncle was the spitting image of my grandfather and I can only imagine my father having those same thoughts spin through his mind. A déjà vu moment where nature brings a process back neatly, step by step, in extreme exactitude. And I remember seeing a macabre video of my father at that, his own father’s, funeral. The lid of the plain wooden coffin was already nailed in, leaving a small window so that family and friends could look upon my grandfather one last time. A small wooden panel was placed over the window and slowly, with purpose and focused sadness, I watched as my father took a rock and nailed the panel onto the lid.
No hammers were used because this wasn’t carpentry: this was a communion between souls and memory.
And strangely enough, I had just watched “Fast and Furious 7” the day before finding out the news, where the passing of Paul Walker still was quite jarring to me. I wasn’t a fan but it was a shock to see him alive because the reality of this story was that he was gone. Just like the reality of this very sick uncle of mine.
In my subconscious, between waking and sleeping, I sometimes wake at the terrifying thought of not existing. Of being dead. Of all those memories of mine disappearing. Of where my consciousness would go and the fear of that place. I would wake feeling the cold grip of the unknown and the ensuing loneliness.
Perhaps it is death then, that propels me to live. That propels me to be better than I was the day before. That urges me to discover that meaning cannot be discovered in an electronic tether and lead, which cell phones and computers have become. Meaning must be discovered in the roots of a seed from which a heart can grow. And though we could barely hold a conversation (due to the language barrier), I knew that my uncle, even in his bad boy lifestyle, had roots that dug deep.. And somewhere, one of those tendrils lead back to me.
When speaking of death, I feel that there is something always untold. That whether you look at it through the glasses of faith or the magnifying glass of science, there are testimonials and hypotheses that leave something out. That something that reassures me of the disappearance of my fist kiss, of my first triathlon, of my first airplane ride, of the first time I scraped my knee, of the first time I gossiped with friends in the school hallway, of swimming with sail fish, of diving with bull sharks. Of all those things that mean so much. Who will care? And all I can say is that the only way I can continue existing is through he words I write.
Who will care?
You will. You may only be one person but perhaps my words will stay in your soul and maybe you will talk of me, use my words as your own.
I intend to live to the edge. I intend to love and I will be truthful about my failings. Perhaps this way, I can keep my uncle close, live for him and share the serendipitous moments that I seem to be a magnet for.
I have a feeling that he will be amused and when the time comes to shuffle off this mortal coil, I should hope he will thank me for driving faster, running harder and living louder than he was ever given the chance to.