Saturday, November 22, 2008

On the Funeral

Dad said it would be good that someone documented the whole funeral process. He saw my camera, but I didn't took it out. I wasn't sure if I could. I mean, well... Out of respect and all, all the uncles and cousins, if I'm like a photographer snapping away, there'd be talk... So I had to be dicreet with my camera phone..

So here goes. My grandma's funeral two weekends ago.

We went to grandpa's house the night we reached our hometown to pay our last visit. A lot of our relatives flew back that day as well. So we burnt some joss stick and sat around talking and catching up for a bit before the start of the prayers and ceremony the next day. Grandma was placed in a refrigerator while some of my aunts were rounding some 'gold paper's for the funeral ceremony. Dad stayed back with his brothers that night while Mum and us went back home for some rest.

The next day, we woke up only at 7 in the morning. We got everything ready before leaving for grandpa's house. As far as I was concerned, we could not leave grandpa's place after the funeral started. So we went out to town to get some other things as well: some tea leaves and coffee powder. By the time we reached grandpa's house, flower rings had increased to over 10.

Thing is, I guessed I haven't been able to recall what happened in chronological. So I'm sorry that I could not actually deliver the whole hakka ceremony here...

But as far as I could remember, there were a lot of prayings and kneeling down. That night, Saturday night, we had a Taoism ceremony, I think. The ceremony was held in the car porch, decoration was put up and a table for the ashes pot and some other offerings was arranged. The cloths hanged behind as a backdrop was of the 9 levels of hell that one will go through after death. Pretty freaky I'd say. We saw them in the temple in Genting before.

So the chanting started at 8p.m. after dinner and lasted till 1a.m. Sometimes we would be asked to stand up and follow what the 'performers' were doing, maybe walked around the offerings table, or walked into the house and all. But mainly, only her kids and their wives followed. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren like us, we weren't required to do what the adults did. And there was this once when my uncles and my Dad was asked to carry some of those stuff and walked after the chanting man around the coffin. Eldest uncle would be holding the ash pot, while another one was holding a bamboo plant with some paper lantern, Dad holding grandma's picture and so on.

I also remembered about this ceremony which involved all of grandma's children and their spouses. There was arrangement of soil on the ground. All the in-laws were given plates of food, and were asked to put the food into the holes made on the soil before being covered. And the one who did the chanting would dance around the soil and continue dancing accompanied by all those instruments, drums and gongs and what not.

And there was also this ceremony which was the only one I could figure out what it all means. To appreciate grandma, 11 bowls were placed on the ground, representing all the children she conceived. All her kids were called upon and kneeled before the bowls. Reddish water was poured into the bowl as they hold the bowl, they were asked to dip one finger into the water and placed it into their tongue, somewhat to symbolize they're fed by her or something. Then the bowl would be placed on to the ground while the Master placed his 'walking stick' thingy into the bowl and chant some more. Once the stick was lifted, the bowl was to be retracted immediately. So it was like, the rememberance of grandma. They should not use the bowl or whatsoever, and were asked to just tuck it away deep inside their closet.

The final one was about them asking for money. I didn't follow, I just went to sleep on the couch. My ankle was red, although most of the time we were all sitting down. But still, it was painful, lots of pressure on the back to sit on the ground the whole night like that.

The following day, the coffin was delivered. Dad forbid us all to watch grandma being placed inside the coffin, something about the 'yin' being too strong or whatever. But I was keen to see, the last funeral of my maternal grandma, all I could remember was Mum's wail. So this time round, I only heard my Aunts screaming for grandma... After grandma was safely placed inside the coffin, flowers were spread across her. And finally we were allowed into the house helping to arrange the flowers. I saw tears in my uncles' eyes. Dad made this pattern based on the colours of the flowers, like grandma's wearing this golden necklace.

By 10-is in the morning, the coffin was closed. Again, we were not allowed to watch. We were asked to kneel outside the house while they closed the lid. And again, Aunt's wailing was heard. But this time round, everyone came out of the house with reddish eyes. Grandma's coffin was lifted out from the house and placed on the front yard. There was a chair arranged, and food was placed. My Aunt's husband was asked to hold a paper umbrella over the empty chair, somewhat symbolizing grandma's last meal before we send her off to the cemetery. Her portrait was placed on the chair. Further chantings were done while all of us descendants sat before the ceremony.

Did I mentioned there were a lot of visitors coming to pay their last respect? Mainly colleagues of Uncles and Aunties really.

So anyways, by the time the meal was over, and time was finally here to send the coffin to the cemetery, we walked around the coffin with the 'gold paper' wiping the coffin.

A ceremony of appreciation was done. Names of those who presented the flowers were read as they were carried up onto the lorry. He went 6 by 6. So after 6 names were announced, we bowed down. After 2 days, grandma's flower rings increased to 24. Mainly from one of my uncles' clients, and some were condolences from colleagues. There was also one from the Aunt given away who is now residing in Singapore.

The coffin was finally placed inside a van and was ready to be sent to the cemetery. Her descendants followed on foot behind the van to the bus parked about 2oo metres away from grandpa's house. Whenever we crossed a bridge, Dad would say "Mum, we're crossing a bridge." Not sure what it indicated.

But before I forget, before all those appreciation ceremony or anything, from what I understand, Grandma was already led to the new home after her last meal. Mum being the next in-law in line after the eldest claimed of knee joint pain and the 2nd eldest being sick, Mum had to hold a HUGE joss-stick and walked to a car before the whole ceremony was over. They say it was to guide grandma's spirit. Mum went alone in a seperate car and leave the cemetery before we reached. She was not allowed to come face to face with the van carrying the coffin. So once she finished touching the base of the burial site with the joss stick, she left immediately without looking back.

So we all saw grandma's coffin being slowly placed into the ground. After some prayers, paddy seeds were threw out while we catch it with our shirts.We paid our last respect and threw in flowers we plucked from the flower rings. The last funeral I attended, we threw soil. We also removed all our mourning symbols, you know, the blue pieces of cloths we had on our left sleeve and the blue triangular cloths we tied on our heads. We were supposed to wear them, the cloth on the sleeve, for I don't know how many days. But before Grandma had her last meal, we asked for the permission to take them off early, and she agreed. So yeah, from then on, we only need to wear dark colour-ed clothings.

We had a our fast-braking lunch in a restaurant not far from the cemetery. After the lunch, grandma's sons went back to the cemetery to paid her a last visit, Sis and I followed. Mum as well as she missed the burial. We went back together with the Master. He instructed my eldest uncle to throw some seeds or beans along the grave while the rest of us pick them up. The flower rings, if you're wondering, they're all placed on top of the soil on the grave. So uncle just put some on the plastics to make it easier for us to collect it.

Roughly, that was it. It's too long a ceremony if I go into the detail. Besides, I barely even know what some them symbolizes...

Anyway, grandma passed away for 2 weeks by now, this coming Thursday will be the 3rd week anniversary of her passing away. There will be another ceremony held at grandpa's house. And little brother will be going as he didn't attend her funeral.

5 Jujus:

Twilight Zone said...

Thanks for your effort to share the whole ceremony!

*Anton* said...

Reading what you wrote, your granma was blessed to have children that loved her.

Will say a lil' prayer for her. Thanks for sharing and do take care ya! ^_^

+The Ant+

aaronng88 said...

May she rest in peace~


tk cr bong~

Bengbeng said...

This post was done in good taste. Well done. I remembered u had apprehensions abt posting abt it. Reading it brings back so many memories, So very many which makes me sad.

Conndolences to the family.

nase said...

Reading this and seeing the pixs, reminds me of my own paternal granny that passed away at 102years old in Malacca.