Dang, since I am in such a mellow mood, let me continue part two of Chinese funeral. (part one here)
I do not know whether it has to do with religion or not but certain religion placed a lot of emphasis on the male gender. Hinduism and Taoism for example. It is a fact that Chinese and Indian women do feel certain pressure about giving birth to baby boys. So, over here when I generalise Chinese, it means Chinese who follow Taoism practice.
So, I am the lucky one. Sort of. When my father-in-law passed away in 1988, I was just married for barely months. We knew he was dying. We had lived in for two years and therefore, it was the sensible thing to do.
He has four sons, the eldest with two sons and a daughter. Sons number two and three weren’t married. (son #2 is late 50s and still unmarried now!). But on his tombstone, after consulting some seedy fengshui master, was engraved with five grandsons and five grand-daughters name. Go figure? He had only 2+1 then. There are 10 names.
And do you know that daughter-in-laws names aren’t included on the tombstone? Only sons, daughters and grandchildren from the sons. Which means, I can easily cabut and find other ‘ah heah’ hor? LOL. Because technically, the mother’s (daughter-in-law) name is not recognised, only her daughter. So biased……
Fast forward to when my mother-in-law died, somewhere in 1999, I had productively made three grandsons. Back to the names first:
The two elder grandsons from my eldest brother-in-law have been fixed as æ¥ (follow by second name). So, when I had my eldest son, I followed the arrangement. When I had my second one, the guy is suppose to be called Yet Hoe. But I was expecting a daughter who is supposed to name Ling Poh (ptuiii, stupid fengshui master almost give my daughter a pornish name or worst, in Hokkien it would have sounded as lau leng poh or old tits). I had another suprise son ‘cos the scan was wrong. I forget that his name is supposed to be Yet Hoe and gave him the fifth name instead. So, there, five names taken.
Now, the Taoist has a funny way to deal with funeral wake. The deceased is almost like still living in the house. At every meals, we had to serve the person a normal meal with a boiled egg and rice. A pair of chopstick will be stuck to the rice. That’s why parents forbid their children to stick chopsticks into their bowl. Bad luck, man.
Each morning, I had to wake up at 6am, bring a basin of water, kneel in front of my mother-in-law and call her to wake up, wash your face. (Message to my own kids – next time dun ever wake me at 6am to wash my face or else I will jump out of the coffin and strangle you. I wake at 11am, remember?) Then, I will bring a freshly made Milo/coffee/whatever the deceased used to drink. Same with the night time. Wash your face, go to sleep. Don’t let the bed bugs bite. Sweet dreams.
Now, after the ‘cure the deceased’, it was time to send her off. First, they build a bridge (with some platform) and cover it with a blue cloth. All the deceased descendants will queue up according to hierachy. Yeah, over here, the daughter-in-law comes before the daughter. Wuah, ada pahwer! LOL. Me a newly married daughter-in-law way ahead of the eldest daughter (during my fil’s funeral 11 yrs earlier, I mean)
So, this sai kong will bring his ice-cream bell and bring us to run a few rounds across the bridge. As we go, we throw pennies/1 and 5 cents coins onto the ground. You know Chinese la….live oso bribe, dead oso bribe. Those pennies are for the lost souls under the bridges. We are supposed to lead my mother-in-law to her final destination.
Now, that piece of blue cloth is very much revered. Only the eldest son will get it. The sai kong trusted it to me, told me that it is sacred and I must make bolster case with it for my sons ‘cos he know that we are the organiser cum paymaster LOL. (tiu, we paid almost 20K and all I get is a blue cloth that had been stepped by so many people? Just joking.) It is supposed to protect them. I am hopeless with sewing but when Vincent was home, I used it for him, pleading to my parents-in-law to protect him etc etc. (Now you know why I lost my faith huh?)
After we sent off the old lady, we reached the city. Sort of after the departure hall, we cannot pass immigration. So, only the sons and grandsons can follow because they got permit. They build a maze there with cardboards and sticks. The sons and grandsons (those old enough) had to kandar, i.e. with a long pole, they hang two bags of heavy rice over their shoulder . Mr. Sai Kong who only carry his bells start running around the maze and the son who shoulder the burden (i.e. the mil’s luggage la) had to follow exactly his steps. Cannot cheat, cannot shortcut. He kept running faster and faster with his sword. Poor eldest bil got tired, pass to the 2nd one and etc etc.
Finally, mil reach the pearly gates. The mercedes, villa, servants etc are then piled up with the gold and silver papers. All of us had to hold our hands and run in circles around the properties while these paper stuffs are burning. Crazy man, can zhng your eyebrow curly with the heat. Imagine a bunch of scouts at campfire. Round the mulberry bush we go….
Kiasu relatives kept telling us not to let go of our hands or else the robbers (roll eyes) will come and steal the properties before mil got them. See? Chinese are very quirky, aren’t they?
Well, that was one hell of a dramatic funeral. Thinking back, I am glad that we had it because it somehow gave us a peace of mind that we had done everything that would please my mother-in-law. Do you know that money spent on such, if given out freely with an open heart, will be ‘compensated’ back to you? One way or another, one cannot be short of money to pay the undertakers if one has willingly spend it for the deceased. It has happened to us many times, whereby we collected surprisingly big amount of ‘pek kim’ (donations) to cover expenses. Therefore, don’t be stingy and you will not be short of money.
Funerals are very important part of a person’s live. Therefore, at all times, do what you think will please the deceased and not what is convenient for the living.
Oh yeah, the undertaker, Ah Chuan of Modern Casket is quite the buddy with my atm. So, I enjoyed sitting down with him or the sai kong to listen to the reasonings. During my own mother’s funeral, I asked Ah Chuan when a deceased will meet up with the previous deceased spouse. He told me after the seventh day. So, I asked him, wuah…so far to walk, must take seven days only can reach the other side? LOL. Ah Chuan said usually, the dead doesn’t know they are dead and still hovers around the house. Only on the seventh day, she/he realised because the fingernails have turned purple and decided to cross over. Eeeewwwss…*smacks Ah Chuan’s head.
Anyway, Ah Chuan was also summoned to handle Vincent’s funeral and he actually cried at that funeral. I was surprised to see it and was deeply touched. He wanted to lay Vincent to rest in the casket but I asked to do it personally. God bless undertakers with hearts!
So, if there’s something strange, in the neighbourhood, who you wanna call? (sing to the tune of
Ghostbuster!) Ah Chuan! Who wants his number? 🙂 Kehkehkeh….