Sunday, August 18, 2019

Three deaths during the summer

Death In Midsummer is the first story that appears in the short story collection of the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima.

The story goes this way: while Tomoko is sleeping, her three children play in the beach, being watched over by Yasue, her sister-in-law. When Tomoko wakes up, she learns that Yasue has died from what seems to be a heart attack and her two children, Kiyoo and Keiko, have drowned in the sea. Three deaths in one day—and Tomoko blames herself for it.

Life goes on for Tomoko. Her husband, Masaru, does not blame her for the incident. They both try to move on. During their visit to the cemetery, they are described this way:

While neither of them especially thought about the matter, it seemed that the period of mourning, an relievable parade of the dark and sinister, had brought them a sort of security, something stable, easy, pleasant even. They had become conditioned to death, and, as when people are conditioned to depravity, they had come to feel that life held nothing they need fear.

It is depressing. One thinks that Tomoko hasn't really moved on.

She was living, the others were dead. That was the great evil. How cruel it was to have to be alive.

The story is, to my mind, a stark contrast to an actual tragedy that happened in the life of Horatio Spafford. All of his four children died when the ship crossed the Atlantic Ocean and collided with a sea vessel. His response was neither despair or hatred. He was at peace. He then wrote of my favorite hymns, It Is Well With My Soul—a testament to God's peace that transcends all understanding. I sing it whenever tragedies strike or when things don't go my way.

I hope the next stories in the story collection aren't so depressing! The writing is beautiful and haunting; it also brings back a lot of memories of people I know who drowned during beach trips, including my elementary classmate Jed who used to visit the house to play.

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