Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Grandma's funeral

Today is grandma's funeral day. Funeral is the ceremony of a person's death. Funeral service itself is important for a meaningful sent off of the deceased person,it is equally important for the family members. As for Chinese it is also the time which important for the culture, including face culture. Some take opportunity to show off the family riches, but recently the ceremony have been simplified and commercialized,there are professional undertakers doing the rituals for the deceased family. Funeral business is lucrative business, it is recession proved.
The funeral service consists of numerous steps, be it burial (entombment)or under cremation. There are the steps for the preparation, but are not limited to, as it depended on the needs of each deceased family:

1. To report the death - it can be done in the nearest police station , hospital. Law required a burial permit to be obtained by the next of kin, normally it will be done by a licensed funeral undertaker. A death certificate(sijil kematian) is also obtained from Birth and Death Registration office(National Registration Department), the deceased family need to surrender the deceased identification card( or IC) to the office. A nominal fee will be charged for the certificates.
2. Select a funeral undertaker - This is for the conduct of the funeral rituals, it is also the time to decide on the scale, time, type and place of the funeral.
3. Select a method - burial(entombment) or cremation. If it is burial, burial ground or burial site need to be selected. The burial place will be a traditional cemetery or memorial park. Normally,the deceased will have orally informed the next of kin when they are still alive, or it was clearly indicated in the will. Some even have selected or booked or purchased the burial ground long before the death. For cremation, the place the body will be cremated, and the place to put the ashes urn or columbarium need to be decided. This is the time some may consider employing feng sui master to survey the site, to ensure that the burial site will bring good luck to the next of kin and its family members. The steps involved substantial financial commitment, it need to be carefully planned.
4. Select the coffin - there are two type of coffin or casket. The traditional Chinese type and the western type. The traditional coffins are rare now, as it is make of solid wood, which is expensive. The coffin is in rectangular shape with three humps, solid and heavy. The western coffin are more modern looking, and it is lighter and less expensive. Most people will select the western coffin as it is popular for cremation.
5. The transport of the deceased to the burial or cremation site- This can be accomplished through a mortuary or special car service, typically in the form of the traditional hearse. However, many opt to customize this aspect of the funeral procession, in terms of the types of vehicle selected for transportation. There's usually an additional charge associated with transporting the deceased. A more traditional one will be carried by a team of man, who are normally friends who shared the burden of the transport by manual way,it is rare now.
6. Opening and closing of grave site for burial - The closing of the grave site will be arranged with another contractor, some arrange by the undertaker for a fee. Opening of the grave must be done in advance before the funeral service, immediately the death is known. The closing of grave will be done only after the burial.
7. Select a monument or grave marker - The burial site need to be identified for the next of kin and other family members to locate the site in future, especially the Qing Ming festival. A headstone or tombstone,or even memorial marker will be purchase for the grave site. For Chinese it may involved design and feng sui practices.

Grandma passed away on 29-5-2009 at 3.10p.m. on the way to Penang General Hospital. She will be going to another place far away, leaving the mother earth she has been living for past 98 years. All the bitterness and difficulties she had from China, to Malaysia; will be a past for her. She may be an ordinary woman, from the country where there was no gender equality(in her time,not now). Yet as a woman she single handed bought up the 5 children when the husband passed away at very young age, just after the WW2. She was a great woman.

Grandma has given her life for her children and grandchildren. She lived her life fully. She even has great great grandchildren(great grandchildren's children), there are 5 generation together for the family. Not many people can lived until that age and having a large extended family. Some family members suggested having " laughing funeral' for her, where the family members will wear red clothing to send her off to another world. The laughing funeral is reserved for deceased person who has reach the age of 100 years, for Chinese culture upon death the age 90, will add additional 5 years, others will only add 3 years . The wearing of red dress indicate that the deceased has enjoy his life fully, the next of kin should be happy about the departure and not to be sad. Normally in the Chinese funeral, the family member will wear black clothing for "sorrow funeral" for the last journey.

The great grandchild who is an engineer, and his child(the great great grand children of grandma)

Grandma is entitled for the "laughing funeral". But some of her children was too sad to agree for the type of funeral. A compromise was agreed to have the children wearing black and white dress; the grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren all wear red dress.The children feel strongly on the departure of grandma, especially the fifth auntie who took care of her while grandma was still living. The memory of her is still strong. The other grandchildren may be close to her, but they can still control emotionally. There are touching moment......one of the great grandchild played violin in front of the coffin for his great grandma, as farewell songs......

The coffin was kept in the funeral parlor for 5 days. Waiting for one of the grandchild from New York, but unfortunately he cannot made it. The Internet technology was used to have the daily funeral ritual transmit to New York each day for him to watch.

The family members consists of three religion, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim. We followed the majority to have the Buddhist ritual and funeral ceremony. There were chanting session led by the monk, but it avoid the burning of joss papers (or hell paper money), which is environmentally more friendly and less taxing than the Taoist Funeral ,which have more rituals to follow, but culturally more colorful. For the Christian and Muslim, they are to pray personally in their own way.

The final journey is today(2-6-2009), the funeral procession took off from the funeral parlor at Batu Gantong , Penang and continue to the crematorium, it was walking through the cemetery under the hot sun. But the family members slowly accompanied grandma to complete her last journey. The ashes urn will be kept at Kit Lok Si temple at Air Itam, Penang; after the bone picking ceremony.

I am sad to say good bye to grandma; the frequent of sending her to the hospital, and seeing her through her illness, was memory difficult to forget; the moment of togetherness when she was alive; the laughter and the story she told.......is still linger.

The funeral rituals were for other people to see; but the time together with her will be in our personal memory. The one who has visited her and fellowship with her during her old age and illness , will cherish the moment; not the funeral ritual which is important for the outsiders, and only when grandma passed away. The most important moment was when she is still alive; when she is ill and need us most to be at her bed side. If we have done that in her life time, we should be comfortable that we have walked with her in her life journey. It is not money, gifts or grand funeral rituals that can replace or compensate for the time with her when she is still alive. Grandma will know for sure the relationship....

If we can have time with friends, we should have our time with the grandma; if we can forgive our friends, we should be able to forgive her for whatever words, act that she has hurt us. No matter what , she is still our grandma , relative ; we shared the same blood.... I prayed that the living will learn the lesson from the passing of grandma. No one can escape the life process, death is the final destination; one day it will come to us, have we walk the worthy life journey, that is the point. The respect to the deceased is not the funeral rituals, it is the time you spent when she/he is still alive......

Is the funeral rituals for dead person, more important than the kinship of a living person? It is the logic of form over substance ,or substance over form? Relationship with a living person is obviously more precious than a dead funeral rituals.....so please value your kinship now. If you have close relationship with the deceased when he or she is living, a simple funeral service will be more meaningful. Most great religion of the world favor simple funeral.

Even the funeral was in Buddhist , we knew in our heart that she is now in heaven....that is most important, not the funeral ritual........

We missed you, grandma.....


  1. There is saying like "A good-bye is never painful unless you’re never going to say hello again."

    It hurts a lot to say goodbye to the person we love the most, who is Grandma. But we all understand that she has done enough for the family and deserves a good time with Grandpa in heaven now.

  2. 讓風箏飛吧


    - 證嚴法師