School Introduction

Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

The 28th Installment“Recent Thoughts”

by Hideki Murakoshi,
Professor, Masters Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering

Recent Thoughts

Last year, my little brother and my father passed away. They both died from cancer. My little brother’s death was sudden. Several years ago, he contracted stomatitis and was told that there was no cure; an examination carried out at a hospital led to a diagnosis of tongue cancer. After subsequently undergoing a number of operations, taking anticancer drugs, and enduring a succession of radiation sessions and other forms of treatment, he finally began his rehabilitation regimen at the beginning of last year in hopes of returning to work in April. In March, he felt an unpleasant sensation emerge in his throat and went to get it checked out, at which time he found out that his cancer had metastasized. He was then admitted to hospital to allow him to receive radiation therapy for a number of weeks. We had believed that my brother’s lesion had disappeared through treatments and that he was finally able to commence his rehabilitation for the purpose of returning to work. However, I believe that he knew then how much more serious his condition really was and that he was unable to reveal it to us. In the end, the growth of his cancerous cells could not be halted. My little brother took his last breath while being taken care of at home on August 4.

My father, on the other hand, found out about his impending death in February of last year. He suffered from an intestinal obstruction two years ago and underwent an emergency operation, at which point it was discovered that he had colorectal cancer. Although he was told in the beginning that he would recover fully if the colorectal cancer were removed, it was later learned through an examination that his cancer had metastasized to his peritoneum and liver. His doctor told him in February of last year that he had less than a year to live. That my father had not much time left was related directly by his doctor to both him and my little brother. The bad news was given to me by my father over the phone. I wanted to express my gratitude to my father, who raised us kids splendidly despite being physically weak and a survivor of a nasty bout of childhood tuberculosis that caused one of his lungs to be removed. At the same time, I caught myself shamelessly wondering whether I too had only another three decades to live before my own life would come to an end. Upon receiving his death sentence, my father set about wrapping up his affairs—which involved everything from selecting a tomb to planning his funeral—before passing away on November 12 in a manner suggesting that we were simply expected to carry through on the arrangements that he had made beforehand.

I lost two members of my family in a single year, yet I also gained something in the process: the realization that I too was not much longer for this world. I had until then believed that there was still plenty of time ahead for my life to take its course. There are still a lot of things that I want to do and experience. It is highly possible, however, that the length of the time remaining to me is less than the length of time that I have lived to date. I began to believe strongly in the importance of figuring out what I wanted to do at this point with the rest of my precious time and formulating and implementing a sound plan towards that end in order to allow me to declare someday that I had lived a happy life. Tell yourself to not lose sight of your own mortality.

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