“If I had to choose one moment to live within my heart… darling, it would be when you smiled at me… that way….” (from That Sunday, That Summer by Weiss and Sherman)
If you had to choose one memory, one special time from your whole life, to stay with you throughout eternity… which one would you choose?
Film maker Hirokazu Koreeda asks that question in his 1998 feature film After Life (known in Japan as Wonderful Life). In this gentle little movie we meet the staff at a sort of a way-station where they—and we–are introduced to some recently deceased people who are told that they have three days to choose one memory they will carry with them for always. Their special memory will be recreated on film, and once viewed, the dead will transition to the next realm, taking that memory with them. As we become acquainted with these people, both the travelers and staff, we learn about the events that gave them not only happiness and sadness, but contentment. This poses the question for all of us: which memories do we value the most? Are they big, significant occasions, or small moments of love, joy, exhilaration?
Our lives are made up of a constant series of events, interactions, discoveries. Each day has the potential for greatness; in the end, most of those 24 hours are composed of tiny things that may seem inconsequential at the time. People fall in love, learn to play piano, scuba dive to the depths of the ocean. We learn to find the Big Dipper in the night sky. When you look back, over all those moments, think about which ones stand out in your mind. Walking down the aisle on your wedding day? Watching Carlton Fiske hit his iconic home run in the 1975 World Series? Seeing the sun set on Denali? Laughing with your friends as you run through the sprinkler on a summer afternoon?
Perhaps it would behoove all of us to take a moment, do a personal inventory, and reflect on those times we cherish. And ask yourself:
Which one would I choose?
After Life is available through Netflix, as well as through your local library. Photo from stockvault.net.
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