Just as I'd announced to Sensei and his wife in parting, I boarded a train three days hence to depart from Tōkyō and journey home. Since the prior winter, Sensei had offered considerable counsel on my father's illness. While I had every reason to feel concern, I found myself, in contrast, remarkably subdued. I was troubled most by thoughts of my mother alone after his death. In my mind, no doubt, I had already come to terms with my father's mortality. In a letter to my elder brother in Kyūshū, I had stated plainly that Father would never recover his health. I had also urged him to find time this summer, despite his duties, to visit home and look one last time into Father's eyes. In an appeal to his sentiment, I'd added that it would be unconscionable for us, as children, to leave our aged parents forsaken and forlorn in the country. These words, as I wrote them, were sincere and from the heart. Afterward, however, they seemed to ring hollow.
I reflected on this contradiction as I sat in the train. As I reflected, I came to see myself as fickle and superficial. I felt dissatisfied. I turned my thoughts to Sensei and his wife. In particular, I thought back on that conversation at their dinner table.
"Which of us do you suppose will die first?"
I silently repeated the question that Sensei and his wife had considered that evening. I knew full well that such a question could never be answered with any certainty. But what if it could? What if they did know who was to die first? What would Sensei do? What would Sensei's wife do? I wondered what they could do, other than carry on just as they were. (Just as I, with the death of my father back home approaching, also carried on.) Human life, I saw, was something fleeting. Our drive to persevere, to carry on with a brave face, I also saw as hollow and fleeting.