November 11, 2003


A few years ago, just after I moved to Sweden, a movie came out that sounded extremely interesting. I was told about said movie by the slightly psychotic girlfriend of a friend of mine (she told me one evening that she could kill any woman that she saw talking to her boyfriend. Thereafter, I have never been in the same room as said friend without a few armed guards, a notary, and a master of Tae Kwon Do. Oh, and my therapist-don't leave home without one.)

Anyway, the film was a Japanese film about heaven, and the definition of eternity.

Now, I didn't go see this film as it was in Japanese and subtitled in Swedish. Seeing as how my Swedish was limited to me butchering phrases that could suffice in a grocery store environment, and my Japanese is limited to counting from 1 to 5 and saying hello and goodbye, I didn't think I would get much out of this film. It would be me there, giving in and talking for the characters (which I tend to do if I am bored, drunk, or hate the film), much like Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Minus the androids. And probably less funny.

The premise of the film, however, has stuck with me, and I think I am going to track it down now, seeing as my Swedish and I get along fine now. The film story is basically this: when you die, you get to choose your own version of heaven, your own moment to re-live forever. Now, the Kanji symbol for heaven actually translates to "a moment of pure and perfect happiness". It looks like this:


And I should know-it's tattooed on my left shoulder. It's one of two Japanese symbols that I have tattooed-the other one is on my right ankle, the symbol for "eternity and endurance" (aka: "my drunk in college escapade").

The film chronicled the lives of several people who had died, and one story, in particular, got me-a young girl died, and she was asked to choose her moment of pure and perfect happiness. At first, she chose to re-live an exciting roller coaster ride she had at Disneyland. But when they (whoever "they" were) showed her a film of her life, they impressed upon her that this was forever, and she instead chose a moment as an infant, nestled in her mother's arms, nursing and being looked down at by her mother with an expression of rapturous love.

Ever since that film, I have wondered what I would choose if I died and got to choose my moment of happiness. I am not trying to wander into the macabre here-it's simply an interesting thought, and one which lets me float through my happy memories (and contrary to what it looks like in my blog, I do have them).

Like the movie "Solaris" (in which my mate Jim and I broke down and did our own voice-overs for the film, it was so madly boring and we were so madly inebriated), there is an alternate version of heaven. One in which people can go back and be with people they lost.

I thought long and hard about whether I would want to head into eternity and choose to be with Kim (for those of you who are a bit new here, you can find the story of him here). But the truth is, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that I have let him go. We had our time together, we are not going to spend our lives together, and we are not going to die together, and that's ok now.

I had someone I know tell me that it's her wish to die in her husband's arms. I can't think of anything more horrifying, personally. Why condemn the one you love to remembering the last, impotent moment when they watched the life float out of you? They will spend the last years of their life knowing that there was nothing they could do to keep you here, on this earth, with them.

Sorry. When I die, I want to die alone.

Anyway, I have been cataloguing happy moments in my life, and wondering if-should I die tomorrow and be exposed to the Japanese version of heaven (Hey! It could happen!) what memory I would choose to re-live.

Some of which came to mind:

- When I was a little girl, I used to sit in a crabapple tree and read books for hours. I climbed to the very top and would pick crabapples, muching them slowly, and read while the warm summer breeze rocked the branches.

- I sat alone on the beach once, and watched a sunset over Bali, the orange spilling onto a temple and chasing the shadows off of every single curve of the steeple, and felt so calm and at peace.

- Swimming in warm water, my snorkel in place and my body free in the ocean in Belize, and playing with a manta ray. We played tag for a long time, and I spent ages petting its odd, under-sided smiling face. Or when I was swimming in the Seychelles, I was circled by a ring of zebra fish, playing circling me and then waiting for me to follow them.

- In Stockholm on a cold and snowy night years ago, the painful image of a man, crying, as we hugged in the street and realized that we were in love and didn't know what to do about it. My forehead pressed against his, I knew that I could never live without him again.

- Some of the evenings I had with Mr. Y-moments of pure dizzy perfection, champagne, naked talks, touching, sharing, loving, reaching out my heart to someone and finding someone there to take it, and then falling asleep, his face curled into the back of my neck, his knees tucked up behind me, the warm presence of him making the world seem that all was right.

And anytime I think about it, what image I would choose, I get calm and warm. I still don't know what image I would choose, what memory to linger in, but I know that there is one central character to my forever, and it is with him that I would choose to relive eternity with.

What would you choose?


Posted by Everydaystranger at November 11, 2003 09:11 AM | TrackBack

Just a soft kiss and a g'nite.
See, I can be a gentleman, sometimes ;)

Posted by: James at November 12, 2003 10:46 PM

Tiffani-sounds utterly peaceful. Makes me want to borrow your family.

Kandy and Jennifer-that was lovely :)

Kat-my mother used to do that, too-rub my back when I was ill. It was so calming.


Guinness-it is a bit sad, I guess.

Kindred Spirit-not sure how it was handled, need to see what the film says.

James-and how did the date end? :)

Posted by: Helen at November 12, 2003 11:57 AM

My heaven would be watching Sarah stripping Helen down and going at it for hours. But, since that's only my imagination and not a memory . . . .

I'd have to choose this one particular date I had in January. It was a blind date and we met around noon. It lasted 14 hours. All we really did was talk, have dinner and cuddle while watching a movie. Easily the best date I've ever been on and the most relaxed and at peace I've ever been in my life.

Posted by: James at November 12, 2003 10:25 AM

Sorry to rain on the parade, but unless 'heaven' wiped your memory at the end of each cycle of the event, it strikes me that it would become awfully boring. Imagine Groundhog Day, but without Bill Murray's character (Phil Connors) being able to change a thing.

Posted by: Kindred Spirit at November 12, 2003 03:41 AM

For some reason I find this very depressing. I guess it's just because I can't think of anything all that good. Everytime I think of something, it only seems kind of good, not like something I want to do for any extended period of time.

I think my life is pretty void of very good things.

I better get on the ball.

Posted by: Guinness at November 12, 2003 01:36 AM

I went to a small, liberal-arts college in Tennessee, and our senior year we had a "senior week", which was a week with just the senior class, hanging out in the dorms together, partying it up for a final seven days until we were out the door. One of the day time events that the social commission sponsored for us was a series called the "Last Lecture" series.

Basically, they got the coolest of the cool faculty members on campus to give the lecture they were give if they knew they were going to die the next day. Their lecture would include the words they had to impart on what they've learned in life.

One political science professor (who I had a big crush on), said that he would try to convey the beautiful moments of his life -- like driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible, smelling the eucalyptus in the air and listening to his favorite music on the stereo that transported him while the cool ocean breeze whipped through his hair.

After I had the same experience on my honeymoon, I'd have to agree with him.

Posted by: Jennifer at November 12, 2003 12:40 AM

Oh... Sorry, I just had to emit that mini grunt from the solar plexus. Interesting post and interesting chain of thoughts that you have tiggered in me (some not so fun though!).

I like this place, followed in from Emily at "I don't think..."... I think I'll make myself at home for a while if that's OK.

Posted by: zeno at November 11, 2003 06:12 PM

oh, i've seen that movie. it was good. eeiry, but good. and it definitely made me stop and think.

what would i choose? not sure. hmm, first things that come to mind:

-performing in the farce "noises off" as the ditzy slut at 16 years old, with some of the people who have become my best friends.

-at the beach at night looking at a bazillion stars

-holding my kitty emma for the first time

-walking in the woods behind my house with my brother and sister

-getting back scratches from my mom when i was little and upset.

ack, makes me a little sad to think about these things for some reason.

Posted by: kat at November 11, 2003 06:04 PM

Helen- your idea of heaven sounds glorious!

I think my heaven would consist of my husband. Wherever it is it doesn't matter as long as he is there with me.

Posted by: Kandy at November 11, 2003 05:32 PM

Delete you? Never! I've sent you copies though. Mmm. ;-P

Posted by: Sassy McSmartpants at November 11, 2003 05:20 PM

Dammit, Sassy, you promised you would delete all those photos from that session, too!


Posted by: Helen at November 11, 2003 03:56 PM

That time where I stripped Helen down to starkers and did naughty things to her for hours on end.....

Posted by: Sassy McSmartpants at November 11, 2003 03:50 PM

Solaris was a good movie, there were a lot of little things in that flic that you had to watch again to get.

Posted by: pylorns at November 11, 2003 03:21 PM

I have a simple one. Not as extravagant as yours but, it's mine.

On a lazy winter sunday last year..the snow was pelting the windows outside. Being snowed in can be a blessing. My husband, my two kids and me doing a jigsaw puzzle together. Then,looking at my five year olds sons face in excitement as he connects two peices together. To me just being content and being cozy with my family is the memory I like to relive everyday. But, it's hard most times. Working a full time job, school and just everday things that can get in the way. When we have those rare quiet moments....there the easiest to want to remember.

Posted by: tiffani at November 11, 2003 03:15 PM

Hmm.... I'd choose an october night on a terrace in Delhi. The terrace is high, you can see the stars, you are lying on your back looking at the stars, there are goose-pimples on your skin, because it is a bit nippy, but you like it that way because you're just back from a jog and you like the feel of the breeze on your skin. Someone's showing you how to use a telescope and nibbling on your ear while you're trying to align the lenses and you're sharing a cigarette. When you straighten your back and look southwards you can see the lighted Qutab Minar in the distance and your heart just melts with the beauty. You have Dylan on the discman and you're dancing on someone's feet.

I'd like to relive that moment.

Posted by: melodrama at November 11, 2003 11:22 AM

Your France memories sound FABULOUS. But sleeping all day and never getting out of your pajamas is trailer trash? Oh dear, I'm screwed. I thought that sounds like the ideal Saturday!

Er...excuse me...I guess I have to go find some hay to roll around between my teeth.

Posted by: Helen at November 11, 2003 10:17 AM

Ooh, what an excellent question! Really got me thinking. Here are two I came up with almost immediately, but I think I will need to mull this over to fnd the perfect one.

When my husband and I were dating, we took some leave and drove to the Verdun area of France and stayed in a beautiful chateau on the Meuse river. The chateau also had a Michelin restaurant, so we ate there every night. Unfortunately, our limited funds did not allow us to purchase the wine, only the food. So we would drive to a small, dusty grocery store, buy a CHEAP bottle of red and a loaf of bread and small wheel of camembert and bring it all back with us. Then we'd take our paperbacks down to the riverbank and read, drink wine, talk, hold hands, look at the cows looking at us from the other side of the river and build up a very good feeling (i.e., buzz) before walking the 200 feet back to the chateau for dinner. Bliss!

But I also have a great deal of "trailer trash" in me, according to my mother. (Hate to do housework and love nothing better than sleeping all day on Saturday and never getting out of my pajamas.) This one relates to that. I'd either want to lie in bed under the world's sofest duvet on a sunny, blustery spring day with the window open, knowing I didn't have to get up, or curled on a big couch in front of a fire with a warm fur throw eating popcorn and reading the best book in the world while rain and mist poured down outside the big picture window.

Not quite as interesting as yours, but I'll get back to you if I come up with the perfect one.

Posted by: Oda Mae at November 11, 2003 10:14 AM
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