FEBRUARY comes. When I’m least guarded, after the celebration of festive seasons and an aspiration for the New Year, February comes relentlessly. Summer is at its height and the harvest is abundant. Yet February comes brutally, again and again.
After nine years February still brings a piercing ache to my heart. Though the pain from Hiroshi’s passing continues to heal slowly, a sudden burst of intense sadness engulfs me out of the blue. Still I do not wish to be defined by just one tragic event that took place in my past. As the anniversary of his departure draws near, I can’t help but feel a strong urge to better myself and better the world. This sense of urgency is very personal and only focused at Hiroshi - for him, in honour of him and in respect of his life which was cut short and he could not fulfil.
Ever since he passed away, my life’s focus has changed. What would Hiroshi do if he were still here? Would he take this path I’m about to take? Would he take this challenge? In a way, I have been trying to bring the essence of a life of a twenty-two year old young lad to my own life while also living a life of his grieving sensible aunt in her fifties. Fortunately we shared similar passions of writing, exercise and music, so I filled my life with Hiroshi’s zeal with ease. I felt deeply connected to him whenever I wrote, exercised and immersed myself with beautiful music. I could hear his encouraging voice whenever I engrossed myself in my favourite pursuits. ‘Aunty Et, good for you! Keep on going as long as you are happy’. With my book, a regular column at the Post, numerous run reports at local parkrun events, my writing has become stronger and purposeful. I belong. Through parkrun, I rediscovered the joy of running and met many wonderful like-minded runners. I belong. I am truly who I am. I am happy. I’m complete.
On his first birthday after his death, I chose a beautiful blue ceramic pot and a little bamboo plant to pay tribute to his short life. Ever since I planted the bamboo, gardening has been an anchoring solace in my life. Whenever I feel my life is becoming too hectic, I go out in my garden and tend my plants and vegetable patch. It doesn’t matter what I do - even just ten minutes of weeding, watering or harvesting ground me and bring back equanimity. Hiroshi’s bamboo has outgrown from the pot, and has been replanted in my garden of Inverloch soil where I would die hopefully in the distant future.
I often get asked a question, ‘You seem so happy with your life. What is your secret Etsuko?’ All I would say is this. ‘There is no secret but just focusing on what I love most in life’. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. It is defined as a fundamental right to freely pursue joy and live life in a way that makes you happy, as long as you don't do anything illegal or violate the rights of others. Happiness however is so fleeting and elusive if you are chasing it as a destination or the end goal. Happiness is rather a state of being. I believe it’s better to focus on the here and now, and to concentrate only on the things make your heart sing. Then happiness is instant and present at any time we engage ourselves in our dearest quests – especially if those quests bring purpose and meaning to your life.
Retrospectively I believe the biggest legacy Hiroshi left for me was an understanding and a realisation of the happiness of pursuits instead of pursuing the elusive happiness in the indefinite future. In the last nine years what I focused on blossomed. What I enjoyed became a sheer joy in my life. Without his departure, my book would not have seen the light of day because the strongest drive to publish was to tell his story to the whole world. He truly existed, and his life was meaningful no matter how short it was.
Hiroshi would have been thirty two in October this year. He would probably have been happily married with a few children. Surely his children would have brought incredible delight to my sister, my mother and me. Instead he is a bitter sweet memory of a forever twenty-two year old in my heart, continually encouraging me to be happy in my own quests. By virtue of Hiroshi my life has continued to be rich and full in spite of his physical absence. Hiroshi’s sweet voice to pay attention to the most important things in my life continues to ring true in my tender aching heart. I am forever grateful for the presence of his guiding spirit in my life.