Heaven called Stronger.
He was 63 years old… born in 1943, he was the same age as me.
I wonder what Stronger was thinking about when he moved on. Â Did he have regrets? Were there things he wished he’d done?
Did he think, “It’s my time, I’ve done all I wanted”?
We didn’t really speak all that deeply, so I don’t know. Â It was last year, or maybe the year before, that I saw him at the Rider event that Okada from Oono Kenyuukai arranged.
About 5 or 6 years before, I ran into Stronger at a Denny’s in Shibuya. Â He seemed healthy, and compared to when he was young he had more muscle and his face was tanned from the sun. Â “Hayami, long time no see!” he called to me, with that same old friendly smile.
We both had other company, so we couldn’t talk long. Â “Let’s take more time to talk later,” we said, and we went to our separate tables.
How did it happen…? Â Stronger lost so much weight, it’s like he was only half of his old fearless self.
Without thinking, I askedÂ “What happened, Araki!” Â He looked down a little and smiled at my question. Â “They cut my esophagus,” Â he answered. Â Whether he’d said he had gotten esophageal cancer, or that’s what I had thought, I still don’t know. Â It amounts to the same thing.
Without blinking, he added calmly, “I eat 6 or 7 meals a day now.”
I tried to sympathize. Â “5 years ago my stomach ulcer burst and I passed out in the bathroom vomiting blood. Â If I had gotten to the doctor even one hour later I would have died. Â That was when I thought, ‘Death isn’t really that scary. Â Would I die when I was going under on the operating table, with the doctors moving calmly around me?’ Â Like it was someone else. Â Thinking like that, I didn’t feel the least bit afraid.”
As I recall, Stronger replied, “Yeah, death isn’t that scary.”
I don’t know if that’s what he really thought.
In the past, samurai warriors would live knowing they would die. Â Those kinds of men exist now, and I think that they too live with that in mind. Â I thought of Stronger as one of those types of men.
At the funeral on the 18th, we say farewell to Stronger.