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.
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.
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.
The prayers were led by monks and a group of volunteers. I am very grateful towards them.
After the prayers, we lined up to offer joss sticks to Grandma.
The funeral was held on the morning of 17th July 2012.
7:07am. In a bit less than 3 hours, grandma's funeral will begin. twitter.com/greatswifty/st…— Edmund Yeo (@greatswifty) July 16, 2012
My uncles, aunts, mom, dad, sister, cousins gathered around grandma, placing golden flowers on her body and catching one last glimpse of her— Edmund Yeo (@greatswifty) July 17, 2012
After, we gently placed red flowers close to grandma's face (which had a slight smile) and chest. As we walked off, the casket was sealed.— Edmund Yeo (@greatswifty) July 17, 2012
After the casket was sealed. We prepared for the funeral procession.
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.
Grandma's funeral procession went thru First Garden. Coincidentally passing by her old house, retracing Grandpa's procession 30 years ago.— Edmund Yeo (@greatswifty) July 17, 2012
The last 2 days had rained heavily, yet on the day of her funeral right now, the sky was pale blue, the clouds a transient white.— Edmund Yeo (@greatswifty) July 17, 2012
My mom wept. Surprised that the funeral procession would go past the old No.67 house. Dad told sister that was where he first met Grandma.— Edmund Yeo (@greatswifty) July 17, 2012
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.
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.
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 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.