Sunday, March 15, 2009

Movie: Okuribito “Departures” & Topic on Death

I was flipping through the news paper this afternoon, and I read an article about death. The journalist recently watched “Departures” and described his friends’ adverse reactions when it comes to the topic of death. I went to watch the movie immediately and it is a great movie.
I always like to touch on the topic of death, but a lot of my friends (many who are brilliant and clever) never gave a second thought about their deaths.

For example: One of my usual questions would be -
Do you prefer to have a slow and anticipated death (like contracting terminal illness) or a quick and un-anticipated death (like road accident or plane crash)? The usual reaction would be – I did not think about it, and let’s talk about something else. As for myself, I would definitely love to die peacefully at old age (hopefully). I want to die in an anticipated way so that I could say a proper & final goodbye to everybody.


On the day we are born, we are going to die.


I have a good friend (“A”) in the funeral business. I always enjoy talking to “A” about the funeral business, how to view our mortality and how to live life. Recently, “A” took up an embalming course, where they have to do real-life practices. To me, it was very courageous and brave. I told “A” that I would get very depressed if I am in the business.
I have NEVER despised anybody in the funeral business. It is work just like everybody else. Somehow, a lot of people view it as taboo and something that is “not clean”. I guess their view was clouded by their ignorance, their fear of death and their fear of unknown. In fact, it is a very dignified work to help to close a chapter in another person’s life.

There are 3 key lessons from the movie

1. Do not do anything that you will regret. Do not show temper and say bad things to people around you, as it might be your last encounter or conversation with that person. Do not use hurtful words to your loved ones and friends (you will definitely regret it).
2. Try to live life fully and uprightly, so that you will have no regrets (back to point one). The sad thing about life is not the end of life, but a life that is not lived to its fullest potential.
3. Learn to forgive others and forgive ourselves. A lot of regrets in life are things that we did wrong, but we did not rectify it or it is too late to rectify it. Everybody makes mistake, that is what that makes us human. Be magnanimous and let bygones be bygones. In fact, by forgiving others, we are freeing ourselves. We must also learn to forgive ourselves. Then, there will be peace in life.


A trivial story to share:

On the children’s day in 1985, most kids brought sweets to share with others; however, I went to Kindergarten empty-handed as my mum did not prepare anything. I was unhappy and shouted at my mum, who was apologetic and went to buy “jelly-sweets” immediately. I knew she felt bad about it. On the hindsight, I felt very guilty and regretful for my action and my insensitivity. May be because I was young, I had forgotten that my family of five cramped in a one-room flat and my dad was a blue-collared sole-bread winner who didn’t earn much – in short, my family was not doing well. Until recent years, I brought this up and apologized to my mum. She was extremely nice, saying that she had forgotten about it totally. Even though she had long forgotten about it and forgiven me, whenever I think about it, I still feel bad. I still have not totally forgiven myself.

I learn not to do or say hurtful things to your loved ones and friends.
I do not want to part this world in regrets.



Since I am on the topic of death, let me pen this down. I always wanted to pen this down (as suggested by my friend - “A”), but I never did.

In the unfortunate situation that I die tomorrow, all my moneys will go to my mother. For the material things that could be of no use to my family, please donate it to charity. I would like to have simple Buddhist rites for my funeral. I want the cheapest items for my funeral (like coffin, venue etc...), I do not need a grand/glam wake. I just want a peaceful wake and I would rather save the money for my family. I want to be cremated and the ashes to be disposed to the seas. I do not want any personal items to be in my wake (if I have spirit after death, I want to move on and put a closure to this life). I came to this world with nothing, I would leave this world with nothing too.
If food is served in my wake, please make sure that it is vegetarian too. I do not want to cause additional sufferings to any animals. Haha...
Lastly, please have a big “Thank You” sign on my wake. I want to thank everybody who has shared my short journey.
P.S. I have planned my “exit strategy”, have you planned yours?


Anonymous said...


Zach Mance said...

Hi I really enjoyed your review of the movie and I thought it was very informative. I was looking up more online information about the movie because I'm trying to find an idea from the movie and turn it into a thesis topic to write about. I'm having a very hard time. Any advice?

Boon said...

Hi Zach, Thanks for the kind words.
Unfortunately, I cannot give you much advice. However, it would be interesting to understand people's attitude towards death. Understand the underlying reasons for their attitude and behavior. There should be some cultural and spiritual differences as well.

It's just my random thought. =)