Voices | FOREIGN AGENDA

Dealing with the death of a friend while in Japan

by Marc Davies

Contributing Writer

Timothy Luis Fontes, a long-term British resident of Japan, passed away on June 27 at the age of 51. He was very sociable and had a sharp sense of wit. He was also my friend.

Grieving a friend is a painful thing, and it is made more so in that Tim and I had similar lifestyles: Like Tim, I am unmarried and planning to live here for the foreseeable future.

I learned of his death from a mutual friend who discovered him in his apartment. His door was unlocked. Had it been locked, we would have needed to contact his estate agency to gain access.

As Tim was single, some friends and I offered to step in to deal with the situation. We contacted police, who in turn tasked us with calling Tim’s family. Fortunately, he had left his mobile phone so we were able to find this information quickly. A call was also made to the British Embassy, which has a special section that handles the deaths of British citizens in Japan.

A number of things need to be taken care of following a death: formal identification of the body, funeral arrangements, closing of bank accounts and cancellation of contracts among them. Luckily, Tim was organized and his information was easy to find.

The process has made me think carefully about my life in Japan. It is important that you look after yourself when living so far away from home, of course, but I’ve now purchased life insurance so the financial burden on my loved ones isn’t too much. I’m in the process of drawing up a will and I have had detailed conversations with the friends I trust most about what to do if I were to pass. Having to do this while mourning a friend has been hard.

The final text message that I received from Tim read, “Good to walk … between the rain.” We had planned to meet up, but the plan changed and he texted me that line as he was walking home during a light shower. It’s important to see to the technical aspects of your death in Japan, but Tim’s death has also made me think about the emotional relationships I have. I now try to part with people on good terms, just in case.

We’re often advised to live more fully in the present, which is good advice. However, I’ve learned the hard way that time spent thinking about plans for future occurrences is a necessity.

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