The number of people in Japan who are dying alone, cremated without funeral rites, is so staggering, according to a recent article in View from the Ark in the Catholic Times, that it was a topic of one of their TV programs. And businesses have formed to take the place of family at death. Other enterprises will dispose of personal belongings when directed to do so by the dying person, who gives the details in a notebook the company provides.
happening in Japanese society, says the columnist, is a blueprint for
what will happen in Korean society. We are well on our way toward making
a relation-free society, the columnist says. A society in which our
next-door neighbor can die and no one knows. A society in which one
meets another on the road without any sign of recognition.
Relationship is a word that no longer seems to have the importance it
once did. Two brief examples were given in the article. The columnist
tells us how
memories of the past, left in a box, were discarded without a thought by
a man whose mother left behind a picture of her son as a baby on the
his mother. In another case piles of newspapers were outside the
front door of a house and nobody seemed to give the sight a second
look. When someone did enter the house, the TV was on, bread was in the
toaster, and in the air the smell of death.
about 30-40 years ago, at the beginning of the economic boom, left
the relational society of the country for the anonymity of big city
life. They left the
extended family for the nuclear family, leaving the elders behind. The
result was that people lived alone, died alone and lonely, the natural
results of the change in the mores of society.
The internet, of course, has made the solitary life easier. But the
increase of irregular workers and the increase of the young opting
for the single life will mean we will have more people dying alone and
The individualism from the West has
inundated our society; the digital culture has taken over and the young
people who have not experienced the relational society of the past
will very quickly forget what community life is all about. Young people have
forgotten the traditional customs concerning marriage and look upon whether to marry or not as a purely personal choice.
columnist asks what kind of society do we want? Many answer that they
want to have intimate relationships with others and to enjoy freedom,
but this is not easy to achieve. In the non-relational society, you are
lonely but have freedom. In a relational society, you have intimacy but
sacrifice is necessary. What is a fact is that we are moving from a
relational society into a non-relational society. This is not something
we need fear even though it is becoming our reality. The last moment of
death, after all, is something
we all have to undergo alone--it is a personal encounter.
religions, seeing death as an important stage in life and by its nature private, give us
positive teachings on how to deal with our last days. For a Christian, death is
not the end, but a going on to God and the resurrection. Effort is made
to do away with the fear that can accompany death. Dying alone does not fit well with the teachings of the Church.
a Christian, it is our duty to decrease, as much as possible, the
numbers of those who are dying alone. After death, paradise is
important but Jesus told us that we are in his kingdom while here on
earth. Reciting prayers for the dead is a wonderful gesture. But
more important is spending time with those living alone and being with
them in their last hours.