My paternal grandmother passed away last Friday evening. We affectionately call her Tampines Ama because she used to stay at Tampines. The name stuck even though she moved to Buang Kok a few years ago. The past few nights have been spent at the wake, entertaining my parent’s friends, chit-chatting with relatives and watching the Taoist procession take place.
My grandmother was 85 when she passed away. She suffered from throat cancer in the late 90s and since then speaking would require great effort on her part. The last few years her eyesight also deteriorated so there was minimal communication with her in her later years. There was also very little communication with her to begin with as I was very young then. So there is little sadness in parting with her and perhaps more relieve that she does not have to suffer ill-health on this earth anymore.
My grandmother had 8 children in all, 6 sons and 2 daughters and my dad’s the second eldest. She was only 19 when she had my dad! Our family history is rather complex, as my grandmother remarried after her first husband passed away. And my great uncle and my dad were quite “havoc” when they were younger. Hahaha.
I shall reserve the more juicy parts of the story to share with you face-to-face, whoever’s keen to know. 😉
I was slightly dreading to attend the wake because it was in Taoist style and because my family’s christian, we do no follow the procession. The wake and funeral was done in a grand affair and I couldn’t help but notice the irony of such a grand send-away upon my grandmother’s death. Why can’t Chinese appreciate the living in a grand way rather than in their death? Can the dead appreciate the filial piety of the living in parading in circles, folding and burning paper ingots and house and mountains? Wouldn’t a visit while she was alive, a harmonious gathering be more meaningful?
Of course there are reasons as to why Chinese do things this way. Matters of pride. Maybe my grandmother believed in Tao-ism and wanted to join her husbands. These questions can only be pondered upon by the living. And these are but some of the questions that ran through my mind as I saw my relative busy-ing around the wake, a cohesive-ness that was not seen before and perhaps not to be seen again.
Perhaps the most important lesson I brought home from the funeral was that ultimately it is relationships and not traditions that matter. I believe it is more so in my generation. A generation that is increasingly inquisitive and less superstitious. Can worshipping your human ancestors really bless you monetarily, etc? What is the point of attending a familial gathering just because we share the same blood? Rather, I would attend a gathering with friends whom I am closer with and feel more comfortable with.
But God didn’t place us in families for nothing. If we are meant to be salt and light of the world, all the more we need to be in our own homes and among our own relatives. I am praying for my relatives, that when the next funeral comes around, we are no longer burning house, gold and silver mountain made of paper but we are thanking a God for receiving a beloved relative that created the heavens and the earth. 🙂
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.