I recently read two entries about funerals and tradition. (From Patch and Bruce's Kitty Poo) I have wanted to, yet, decided not to comment or write anything about it. To me, funeral is a bit on the depressing for me to write. Even though I enjoy reading the entries, but I can't stop myself from remembering my most recent experience with funerals and death. (No, not my near-death experience, you dork, I never had any)
But I have changed my mind. (Yap, I have swinging mood) I want to write something about it. I want to write about tradition. Not necessary funerals.
I don't remember how long ago as this, but I remember I was still living in San Diego, in a tiny room inside of my landlord's house.
It was either June or July, I don't remember. But that night, I was doing my usual routine, making Tea... That I received a phone call from my mom.
"I just got a call from your Aunt"
"Oh? What's wrong?"
"Grandma just passed away. 3 hours ago in Taiwan"
"How can this be possible?"
At that moment, I couldn't stop myself from crying. I have never cried so much before. Even when I got dumped by my ex-bfs, I have never cried. I didn't even dropped a single tear. But after hearing those words over the phone, I just couldn't held back my feelings. My body was all weaken, I sat down on the floor, sobbing, crying, mummer over the phone...
"It's too soon... I didn't even have the chance to see her... I didn't even have the chance to see her"
Earlier that year, I was planning to flight to Taiwan, and visit all my relatives there. I had a feeling, that I needed to visit my grandma, when I have the chance. But due to some family and financial issues, that I didn't go.
'Wayne, it is okay. Death is part of life. Grandma left peacefully."
Of course I understand that. I don't fear death at all. I never see death as something threatening... I was regretting that I didn't get to see my grandma when I have the chance.
"Wayne, I'm going to call your sister now. Okay?"
Tears continued to flood my face, as I put the phone back into its charger.
At age of 86, my grandma passed away peacefully on her bed. In her sleep.
My mom and dad flew to Taiwan for the funeral. From the pictures that they brought back, for the first time in many years, I saw my mom in tears. In the picture, everyone wore white linen cape and hood. Being the 2nd eldest child in the family, my mom and my dad sat on the 2nd row, right behind my big uncle. The picture shown my mom, looking down on the floor. As if she was afraid to raise her head to meet the faces of those who came to say goodbye to my grandma. She didn't want to loose control over her emotion, and expose her fragile side to those she has known from childhood. My dad, on the other hand, also looking down on the floor. But I knew he wasn't holding back the tears. He was afraid to catch "Bad Luck." My dad has always been a superstitious man. Years of reading and studying about Fung-Sui and superstitions, he was afraid of catching bad luck, and will lead to the down-fall of his business.
I cannot blame him for feeling this way. After all, he has been living all his life under the influence of superstition. It's part of him.
From what my mom told me, my dad didn't even want to wear the white linen cape. He even asked my mom if he can wait outside of the tent, and pray from a distance.
"Well, that's Dad alright. I'm not surprised."
Two years ago, I went to Taiwan for a month. To take care of my dad, who was having a major surgery in Taipei. It was then, I finally get to visit my grandma's grave. Or should I say, the Urn that contains her remains.
Instead of individual grave or tomb, for my mom's family, they have a family burial plot. Well, it was more like a little tiny temple, sitting in the middle of grass land.
"This is the family grave." said my 2nd Uncle.
"This is where all my great grand relatives live" said my Aunt.
"And here is grandma." My aunt walked toward the entrance. But instead of opening the door to the little temple, she looked to the side.
There's a metal stand. Holding 3 urns on the top.
"Oh, someone died too, after Ah-Mei." My uncle points at the other Urn that was sitting next to my grandma.
"Never seen her before. Must be a far relative. At least your grandma is not waiting by herself."
"Waiting? What do you mean?"
"We can't put grandma in there yet. The time hasn't come."
"Inside of the tiny temple, you mean?"
"We cannot take grandma inside until the right time. Let me see... I think we need to wait 3 more month."
Apparently, inside of the little temple-like structure, sits many other Urns of the same blood line. Including my late grandpa.
I never really understand the whole Chinese Years, and when is the best time to bury the dead. There's always a specific day or time to do certain things.
I bend down, and look at my grandma's Urn.... Her picture is attached on the front.
In the picture, she was smiling.
"That's a good picture, huh? I took it for her couple years ago." Said my photographer uncle.
My body was trembling.
Then I saw my aunt, pulling out a piece of Kleenex, and star to wipe my grandma's picture clean.
"Ah-Mei yeah, Ah-Wei is back to see you now. See how much he has grown? Please look after him in the sky. Give him lots of success in his career and live a happy life."
My tear glands started to work its magic. Wetting the surface of my eye balls.
I watch my aunt carefully wipes the Urn clean, while my uncle started a fire inside of a metal bucket.
Controlling each breath that I take, I told my grandma, how sorry I am, for unable to attend her funeral. How sorry I am, that I didn't fly back to see her, 2 months prior her departure. And how much I have missed her.
"Ah-Po, please watch over us. Bless everyone in the family, and help us pull though any obstacles that we may encounter."
My cousin pulled out stacks of paper money. Looked like a bunch of cardboard papers, with gold square painted on the center.
"We gonna make your grandma a millionaire."
"Yeah, so she can buy herself new clothes, cars, or maybe a couple of houses."
We started to talk about what grandma can buy and what she can invest as we throw the paper money into the metal bucket.
After cleaning up the metal bucket, and gathered the food we placed on the alter back in our bags, we said goodbye to grandma and the two strangers sitting next to her.
Now, thinking back, she is probably sitting next to my grandpa, inside of the little temple now.
Sometimes I wonder, did she get to use the money we burnt for investment? Or did grandpa took it all?
Just before writing this entry, I brought back the memory of the entire experience from receiving the call from my mom, to my last visit to my grandma's Urn.
"I didn't even get to see her before she left. I didn't even get to see her.... I didn't..." Start to run inside of my head, as the tear rolls down my cheeks.
Memory is a powerful thing.
Ah-Mei: The nickname that my mom, uncle and aunt calls my grandma.
Ah-Wei: My nickname. Everyone in my family and relatives from my mom's side calls me that.
Ah-Po: Kinda like "Grandma" - The younger addresses their grandma from mother's side. Dad's mom would be "Na Na."