Realizing what’s most important

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Realizing what’s most important


What was the happiest moment of your life? The Japanese movie “After Life” (1998) revolves around this question. Directed by young Japanese master Hirokazu Koreeda, the film is set in a way station between this world and the afterlife. Those who die arrive every Monday and are then instructed to choose the happiest moment of their lives before they are sent off to the next world with that one memory. No one wants to talk about their most glorious or successful moment. One person names the day he ate a lunch prepared by his mom on a swing in a bamboo forest. Another remembers the balmy breeze from the window of a school bus. When I saw the movie, it made me think about the moments when I’ve felt the happiest. For me, it was a spring day during my freshman year in college.

There was a small lawn in the middle of the school dorms. Under an array of magnolia, lilac and cherry blossoms, I was lying on the lawn with a friend, sharing a pair of earphones on my pink Walkman. As we watched the white flowers swinging in the wind, we listened to the music without saying a word. I remember thinking it was a sweet moment that may never come again. What enchanted us was the song “When Love Passes By” by singer Lee Moon-sae.

Of course, I’ve had my share of happy moments since. But the song has become the epitome of happiness for me. When I walk to a certain place on a certain day, I am reminded of it. Sometimes, just listening to the introduction makes me emotional.

I wasn’t feeling particularly happy this Valentine’s Day until I saw a tweet from Lee Moon-sae: “I hope we don’t forget that today was the day composer Lee Yeong-hun passed away.” Most of her songs were composed by Lee Young-hun, who died on Valentine’s Day four years ago. Many talked about the impact the composer had on their young souls. One wrote: “I was able to hold on for 10 years, thanks to his songs.”

We get assurance about love by celebrating occasions such as Valentine’s Day, and we usually give gifts to express ourselves. A survey said the gift that men wanted most this year was a tablet PC, while women wanted a wallet. But we all know that the love proven by a fancy gift does not last. What moves the heart is a glance, a shy proposal or that feeling on the tip of your fingers when you hold hands. If you want one happy memory to carry with you into the next life, it should be something that gives you eternal joy. For me, that is the music of Lee Yeong-hun.

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Lee Na-ree
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