A casket! Monday, September 5, 2011




For months I have been archiving my old blogs. On Saturday night I came to the part about a few deaths in my family that happened within a very short time last year. I re-read them and my heart sank.

Goodbye Grandma:

She is no more...

Day One of the Funeral

Getting in Touch,

            etc, ....

I usually do not spend much time re-reading the blogs, but I did on Saturday night while the sky was thundering and pouring like hell.  I wondered why Heaven was that sad.

Yesterday (Sunday) morning I saw a pick-up truck parked in front of our neighbor's. There was a brand new casket in it.. I also saw incense sticks at the gate.

Who passed away? What happened?!

In the afternoon when we were about to go out for our weekly grocery shopping we met our neighbor and her family. I went up and asked  her what happened. She said her dad passed away peacefully early in the morning

She used the words "sin-boon" , which I found so profound: "Sin" in Thai means to end. "Boon" means merit. Ending the merit....

But what a shock! Just last week I saw the old man checking one of his family cars as usual right in front of his gate and, although we had long known the "Grandfather" had not been in very good health for a few years already, he looked no different! 

I asked my neighbor,"Wat nai?" (="Which temple?") and was told where and when.  It would last three days, she said.

In the evening my family and I went to that Wat. It was not far from our place.

We did not see any crying faces at the funeral. Even the "Grandmother" did not cry. She smiled and greeted the guests and family members. Except her black dress she looked no difference... Her siblings and friends - all in their 80's - came to the funeral and sat with her in the front row. They chatted and appeared as if it was "just another gathering". This is not strange for the funerals in Thailand. (Do click on the link for the article a few paragraphs  below this and you will understand more....)

The casket was put on the stage on one side of the hall and was behind rows of wreaths. A picture of the "Grandfather" in his younger age was displayed on a stand. There were tables for worshipping. One right in front of the casket and one in front of the Buddha statues.

It was almost the same as what my family and I experienced a year ago (August, 2010).

The ritual started around 7 p.m. after the announcement. Four monks entered the hall, worshipped the Buddha, seated on the elevated platform, and then started chanting in an ancient language - with the explanations in Thai immediately after each beginning phrase. While chanting, each monk held up a "fan" that had a long stick -- with the height that the fan fully covered his face from the audience.

I was surprised to see my older son chanting along as if he had memorized everything. I asked how he knew the words. He showed me his Iphone: it had the chanting words for the funeral. He was just reading that along!  No wonder he had his Iphone rested on his hands during the chants. My son told me that the chants in the funeral began with the words "Bussara Thamma".

Indeed! The chants did start with "Bussara Thamma"  - although the rest was  still "blah blah blah"  for me....
I really must study more about this.

There were three chants. Each lasted a few minutes.

During the short intervals, sealed cups of drinking water and boxes of snacks were served. My neighbor later told me she ordered the well-known bakery online just a few hours before the funeral!

Such efficiency! It was a lot less messy than cooking at the site. Traditionally there would be porridge and certain kind of desserts prepared right outside the hall and served during the intervals. At the funeral last year, my sister-in-law also ordered boxes of snacks from a bakery, but for her "crew" she had her maid brought from their own kitchen a lot of hot dishes -  including cooked rice in two or three huge rice cookers.

Day one of the funeral was over at around 8 p.m.

Not long after we left the temple  the sky poured tons of water down. Weather has been like this for a few days already:  sunny and very, very hot throughout the day, with heavy downpours in the evenings.

===========

I sometimes was asked if the Thais cremate or bury the dead.

From what I know, the Thais prefer cremation but the old style Chinese-Thais who can also afford to buy a piece of land and to pay for the long-term maintenance prefer burial.

The cremation usually takes place at the temple on the last day of the funeral, or three months to a year after the funeral.  

For those that do not want to put burden on their family (or those that their family do not want to be burdened) their ashes will be spread on the river. The ritual is called "Loy ang-kaan". "Loy" = float.  "Ang-kaan"  means Tuesday or Mars. I checked Wikipedia and learned that it also means cremated ashes.

I have never been to a Loy-Ang-kaan  ritual but this article gave some good idea about it:
http://funeralceremonyinthailand.blogspot.com/2009/07/thai-funeral.html

Methinks cremation with "Loy Ang-kaan" sends the deceased back to mother nature  fast and completely!

===========

This article said someone in Europe  invented a way of liquidising bodies to save cremating them:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9577543.stm

I wonder if this is better than &"Loy Ang-kaan"?



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