Thursday, March 03, 2005

Re the reecnt death of popular bandleader Martin Denny, RIP, at least he got to "pop off", or what the Japanese call "pokkuri", in his sleep, peacefully, quietly. What a nice way to go. Long live the pokkuri exit! Rest in eternal peace, Denny!

Martin Denny, (April 10, 1911 - March 2, 2005). Beloved exotica bandleader Martin Denny died last night. The good news was that he died peacefully in his sleep, in Hawaii, at the age of 94. Popping off like that, or ''pokkuri'', as the Japanese say, is not a bad way to shuck your mortal coil.

GOOGLE: the practice of visiting pokkuri-dera, or "sudden death temples" by Japanese
In Japan, prayers for a discreet death

news article from the AFP , GOOGLE for more details:

A heart attack or sudden natural ailment would be a dream come true for the pilgrims who flock to this Japanese town where an ancient temple is reputed to fulfill a modern wish: discreet death.

Winter is the quietest time for the Kichidenji Buddhist temple, but a group of four elderly people braved the cold weather to make their annual pilgrimage and pray they would not burden families in their final years.

"I want to 'pop off'. I think more and more people feel the same way," said one pilgrim.

pokkuri , to die quietly in sleep, discreet death, RIP, old age

彼は「愛してるよ」と言って、ぽっくりと死んだ in Japanese
[kare wa "aishite'ru yo" to itte, pokkuri to shinda] in romaji
He said "I love you," and dropped dead. (translation)
and here is a social commentary soon to be published in a major US newspaper oped section:

When my time comes, I hope I will just ''pop off''

[opied commentary by Name Witheld until Publication Day]

When you get ready to meet your maker, do you want to die a long slow, painful, costly death -- or do you just want to "pop off"?

I ask this question because there's a unique Buddhist temple in Japan where people go to pray that they will just "pop off" when they die and not be a burden on their families during their final days.

They ask the gods to let them "pop off" --"pokkuri" in Japanese -- and die a sudden death, preferably on a quiet night in their sleep, or via a sudden heart attack, without spending a long time in a sickbed at home or in a nursing home or hospital.

I read about this temple in the newspapers the other day and was immediately drawn to the subject. I want to ''pop off'', too, when I go. What about you?

An elderly Japanese housewife was quoted in the article as saying, "I want to pop off (''pokkuri''). I think more and more people feel the same way in a graying society."

She had gone to the temple to pray for a quick end when the time comes. And she knows, as we all do, that the time will come someday.

This Buddhist temple was set up over a thousand years ago in Japan by a monk whose mother had passed away peacefully after she wore clothes that he had prayed over. A tradition was born, and ever since then, pilgrims across Japan have been coming to the Kichi-denji Temple to pray for a discreet, quick, popping-off kind of death.

"Let me pokkuri," they say.

Maybe that's a good word we ought to borrow from the Japanese -- as we have done with sushi and sashimi and wasabi -- and make part of our postmodern American vocabulary.

"God, grant me a good life, a useful (and meaningful) life, and when it's time, let me 'pokkuri' in a dignified, discreet way. Amen."

That's my prayer. What's yours?

The Buddhist priest at this temple in Japan told a reporter that the pokkuri prayers offered there represent "a simple desire for people to hope to die a peaceful death."

"It's natural that children should wish that their parents have a long life," he said. "However, seeing aged parents anguishing in bed or too senile to recognize their own children makes many people, especially daughters here in Japan, come to hope that their parents will die quiet, quick, discreet deaths."

Well, I'm paraphrasing, since I can't read Japanese very well. But I think I know what that priest was getting at.

According to news reports, around 10,000 people come to this temple in northern Japan every year to pray the Pokkuri Prayer. They pray that they will not be a burden to their families when they meet their maker.

A 76-year-old woman interviewed for the news story said that her husband of 40 years died suddenly a few years ago from a heart attack, after repeating telling her that he wanted to "pop off" -- and pop off he did."

His prayer was answered," she said. "I want to follow suit some day."

I can relate to that.

Life's been good, I've had a great ride, and at 55, I still have a few more years to go, I hope. But like those pilgrims at the Kichi-denji Temple, I hope that when I go, I can just"pop off" in a quick, quiet way.

Give me pokkuri, O Lord, when you give me death, yes!

Nowadays, many Americans are debating such issues as assisted death and assisted suicide. Oregon's Death With Dignity Act has some people up in arms, and others quite satisfied.

Meanwhile, the US federal government's Controlled Substances Act has other people up in arms, and the debate about doctors using certain medications to help some patients die continues to heat up.

One of my neighbor's father is almost 90. He's in a good health, except that he doesn'treally know what he did yesterday, he's more or less blind, he can't hear too well and well, you know, he's getting ready to meet his maker. I pray that he will have a "pokkuri moment" and leave this Earth in a quick, quiet way -- preferably in his sleep, in a dreamstate, headed back to the stars.

And when my time comes, as come it must, I'd like to "pop off", too.

What about you? Do you want a long, drawn-out death or a pokkuri moment of release?