Paying Last Respects…
A short while after receiving the sad news, I drove north to Kuala Lumpur to pay my last respects to my dear father-in-law during the wakes and the funeral after. He was called home in the early hours of the 7th day of 2013 at the ripe old age of 98 years old. At this age, it is a Chinese tradition to display a pair of lanterns with his age written in red characters. For him, the age read 102, or a ripe old of 100 plus 2, or 98 rounded up to 99 plus 3.
Culture, Religious Beliefs, Customs and Rituals…
Amongst the Chinese people, wakes and funerals are a complex mixture of culture (depending on the provinces and districts the deceased or his ancestors originated from), religious beliefs, customs and rituals. With the knowledge and the wisdom of the seasoned funeral director, my mother-in-law and her children, the operational aspects have been smooth. Within the family there are Buddhists, Taoists, Christians and Muslims and they reflect the religious diversity in a country like Malaysia.
My father-in-law had professed no attachment to a particular faith. My mother-in-law who is a Buddhist, has opted for a simple version of Buddhist rites. Her wish is for a simple ceremony, one that will bless the descendants with both health and economic well-being. For my family and me, each of us presented a white chrysanthemum flower at the altar and then placed the flower onto a bowl of pure water. We are Anglican Christians. The Buddhists and the Taoists used a lighted joss stick each to present their mark of respect. Such is the pragmatic solution in paying respects during wakes suggested for friends and relatives of various religious faiths. A solemn occasion such as during a wake is best served with no faux pas.
What Though The Radiance Which Was Once So Bright…
In times of losses, I have often recited my favourite stanzas from this “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” by William Wordsworth.
“What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.”
A Multicultural Society…
May these words help to comfort us during our bereavement. And I do hope we can learn the paying of respects during wakes especially in a multicultural society.
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home. ~ Amazing Grace