I feel exhausted in a way I have not felt before.

It sounds like I am complaining when I say that. Maybe I am. It feels like given the circumstances - going to a funeral - the idea of talking about myself is so wrong. Yet all that I know is how I feel. And that is completely exhausted. Drained.

There are a lot of things people who come in on the JET Programmer are told. A lot of them are social faux pas to avoid. Two of the big ones are

  1. Never stick your chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice.
  2. Never pass things via chopsticks to another person.

These are related to funerals, and should not be done at other times. When I saw the chopsticks in the rice straight up my first instinct was, “Hey, that is not right!” Quickly followed by, “Oh wait. It is entirely right this time.”

Cremation is common here in Japan. I knew that. We went once to deliver the casket and then went back later. I knew what was going to happen. And yet, when the door was open and the pile of bones was all that was left, I was speechless. The fact that over the course of three days someone I knew went from lying in a bed to lying in a casket to being put into a jar just shook me in a way that words do no justice. When I was handed a pair of chopsticks and instructed to place a bone into a jar, well. My sister-in-law said I was quite pale.

If this sounds like the words of someone who has had little experience with death, it is because I am such a person. In that regard, I am lucky. The shock that I am feeling tonight may well be natural. I doubt I am special in any regards to how I am feeling. That is not what I am trying to convey here.

I do know that when we had packed up the bones and in the moment of silence, when my son said “great-grandpa is sleeping”, there was nothing any of us could add.