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My Short Films

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Grandmother's Funeral

(My dear grandmother had just passed away. Since then, I received many kind messages from friends around the world expressing their condolences, they have my utmost gratitude. The next few posts in this blog will be about my grandma. Because I needed to remember.)

A photo trip through memory lane with my Grandmother.

Letters to my Grandmother




A week has passed since Grandma died. I have shared with you my memories of her, and also the letters that we have written to her before her funeral, now I try to chronicle the funeral itself.

On the two nights before the funeral, she was placed to rest in the house that she had lived in for nearly 20 years, so that friends and family could come and pay their last respects.

Grandmother


Like I have mentioned before, Grandma was survived by 9 children, 22 grandsons, 2 godchildren, 6 god-grandchildren, countless friends. The amount of people who came were huge. It was loud, boisterous and strangely festive. I found myself thinking of certain funeral scenes from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE. Perhaps it was because of the big family, perhaps because it was also during these two nights that I found out Marquez is suffering from the same condition that my Grandma had prior to her death, perhaps my earlier observation that the Latin American culture and our own have quite a few similarities was right.

I looked around at my uncles and aunts, my cousins, many of them I have known all my life. We were all mourning for Grandma, but at the same time, I knew we were celebrating her life. Often, I could see these family members from my mother's side either during Chinese New Year (where we would all gather at Grandma's house) or her birthdays. Most of us live in different parts of Malaysia, some, like me, are based in different countries. In my heart, I knew that I always loved them.

The two nights before grandma's funeral


Liu Yang Yang, a friend of mine from China, upon hearing the news, told me this. "Over here in China, when the deceased left peacefully of old age, with all her children, grandchildren to celebrate his or her long full life, we call this "Xi Sang 喜丧" (it is translated literally as "joyful mourning", or a "happy funeral", where red lanterns are used)."

"Xi Sang. A good word. Then this is a Xi Sang indeed." I agreed.

In each of these two nights, there were three recital sessions for the children and grandchildren of my grandmother, and we would recite those Buddhist prayers to honour her.

Reciting Buddhist prayers for Grandma


The prayers were led by monks and a group of volunteers. I am very grateful towards them.

The monks and volunteers leading the prayers


After the prayers, we lined up to offer joss sticks to Grandma.

Offering joss sticks for grandma


The funeral was held on the morning of 17th July 2012.







After the casket was sealed. We prepared for the funeral procession.

Just before grandma's funeral


The procession started from her house and through First Garden (the neighbourhood Grandma had lived in almost all her life), somehow, we were following the route that Grandma used to take everyday when she was walking to the nearby market.

And through a stroke of fate and coincidence, the procession went past an older house that my grandmother used to stay with my grandfather, along with their children. It was the house from my mother's youth.

Grandma's funeral procession had ended up retracing the route of my grandfather's, who died exactly thirty years earlier.







We all got onto buses that took us to a crematorium. When we were there, we said our last farewells to her. There were more solemn Buddhist recitals before we placed a small piece of wood before Grandma's casket.

As this was happening, two other caskets arrived with their mourners, they had their ceremonies too, both were starkly different from ours. One was led by a man in Taoist costume, his chants were accompanied by the extravagant sounds of cymbals. Meanwhile, the other group of mourners had talismans tied to bamboo leaves as they stood before the photo of the deceased. I assumed it was also a Taoist ceremony, but I might be wrong.

Their ceremonies were only beginning as we left the crematorium.

After that, we had a huge vegetarian feast. There were five to six tables for us. Lots of joy and laughter as we remembered Grandma.

Having a vegetarian feast after the funeral


When we returned to Grandma's home, we all had to wash our hands and face with a bucket of water filled with flowers. In the house, we were given a kind of Chinese cake and sweet lychee drink.

Returning to grandma's home after her funeral


Realizing that this was the first time I returned to Grandma's house without her with us anymore. I looked up, past the roof, and at the clear afternoon sky.

The afternoon sky after grandma's funeral


The vivid sapphire blueness of the sky reminded me of the many Chinese New Years I have spent in her house.

Just moments ago, while I was typing this, my mom walked into the room, she had just woken up from a nap.

"I had a dream of mother. She was handing out ang pows to the kids." She said, referring to the tiny red envelopes handed out during Chinese New Year. And then, mom smiled.
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