Happy Death Anniversary

This invitation to a death anniversary arrived in yesterday’s mail.

I love the idea of death anniversaries. In Japan, people don’t forget all about you after you die. One year after, they throw a party. Family and friends are invited, a plate of your favorite foods and a cup of your favorite refreshment is set out on the head table in front of a flattering picture of you, and toasts are made to your memory. As people begin to enjoy themselves, they share fond stories about you and maybe cry a little, since you’ve only been gone a year. But as time goes by and people gather for your third and seventh and thirteenth etc. death anniversaries, the sadness is replaced by good memories, catching up on family gossip, and generally carrying the circle of life forward.

The other thing I really like about Japanese funeral and burial customs is that your ashes are buried in a family crypt along with those who have gone before you. Not only does it seem like a less lonely way for your dusty remains to spend eternity, your grave will still be visited and spruced up at O-bon by generations who never knew you, but who’ve carried your genes on into the future. Kind of nice, don’t you think?

The photo above is of the invitation I just received. It required some advice from my Japanese teacher on how to fill out the RSVP properly, because not only do you need to write your name and address and the number of people who will attend, you have to cross out any honorific references to yourself and replace the humble references to the host with an honorific character on the pre-addressed return card.

Jonelle Patrick is the author of  four novels set in Tokyo

A young woman dressed as a Gothic Lolita is found dead in a car with two strangers. But the more Yumi Hata learns about her friend’s death, the more she’s convinced it was murder…read more