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[Opinion] A Blessed Death

Posted February. 02, 2005 23:02,   


I recently received a phone call from an acquaintance that I personally admired. “I called to convey some good news,” he said. When I asked: “Please tell me about it,” his answer was startling. “My father passed away peacefully at the age of 92.” I was temporarily at a loss for words, but soon realized that he was in earnest. Survived by six sons, the deceased was fortunate to have passed away peacefully. The eldest son even declined listing his father’s obituary in the newspaper.

In visiting the mortuary at a general hospital, the six brothers were greeting the mourning guests. It was a memorable sight when compared with other wakes where only a single son or son-in-law would greet the guests. The daughters-in-law and grandchildren were also at peace during the funeral. The guests did not have to put on a sorrowful expression. All greeted the family with the words, “He was blessed with good fortune.” Even the grave had been prepared beforehand.

It is said that fate selects those who may observe their parents’ death. Even sons and daughters with great filial pity may have their parents pass away during their absence, while renegade children may happen to visit their home at exactly the moment of their parents’ death. Worried that their son’s performance at a golf match might be affected by her death, one mother even forbade news of her death to reach her son until after the competition. The sight of an old man opening his eyes and looking around for his loved ones right before his death is a miracle in itself. It is said that at the time of death, one can observe his life unfolding right in front of his eyes in a panorama.

The elders that I meet every morning at the water fountain in the middle of the hill near our house often say that their last wish in life is to “leave this world peacefully as if asleep, at a convenient season, without burdening our children.” They talk about instances where happy families break up when conflicts occur between parents and their children due to a parent’s disease or dementia. I realized that dying well is as important as living well.

Oh Myung-chul, Editorial writer, oscar@donga.com