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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.  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.  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.  He seemed healthy, and compared to when he was young he had more muscle and his face was tanned from the sun.  “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.  “Let’s take more time to talk later,” we said, and we went to our separate tables.

How did it happen…?  Stronger lost so much weight, it’s like he was only half of his old fearless self.

Without thinking, I asked “What happened, Araki!”  He looked down a little and smiled at my question.  “They cut my esophagus,”  he answered.  Whether he’d said he had gotten esophageal cancer, or that’s what I had thought, I still don’t know.  It amounts to the same thing.

Without blinking, he added calmly, “I eat 6 or 7 meals a day now.”

I tried to sympathize.  “5 years ago my stomach ulcer burst and I passed out in the bathroom vomiting blood.  If I had gotten to the doctor even one hour later I would have died.  That was when I thought, ‘Death isn’t really that scary.   Would I die when I was going under on the operating table, with the doctors moving calmly around me?’  Like it was someone else.  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.  Those kinds of men exist now, and I think that they too live with that in mind.  I thought of Stronger as one of those types of men.

At the funeral on the 18th, we say farewell to Stronger.

Translated from the original entry.

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