interchangeable

The memories would slam against me like the waves of an incoming tide, sweeping my body along to some strange new place – a place where I lived with the dead. There Naoko lived, and I could speak with her and hold her in my arms. Death in that place was not a decisive element that brought life to an end. There, death was but one of many elements comprising life. There Naoko lived with death inside her. And to me she said, “Don’t worry, it’s only death. Don’t let it bother you.”

I felt no sadness in that strange place. Death was death, and Naoko was Naoko. “What’s the problem?” she asked me with a bashful smile, “I’m here, aren’t I?”…”If this is death,” I thought to myself, “then death is not so bad.” “It’s true, “ said Naoko, “death is nothing much. It’s just death…”

Eventually, though, the tide would pull back, and I would be left on the beach alone….sadness itself would envelop me in deep darkness until the tears came. I felt less that I was crying than that the tears were simply oozing out of me like perspiration.

I had learned one thing from Kizuki’s death, and I believed that I had made it a part of myself in the form of a philosophy: “Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life.”

By living our lives, we nurture death. True as this might be, it was only one of the truths we had to learn. What I learned from Naoko’s death was this: no truth can cure the sadness we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness, can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see that sadness through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be (little) help in facing the next sadness that comes to us without warning.

Haruki Murakami Norwegian Wood

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