Grandpa’s Funeral

Posted: June 29, 2012 in Daily Rain, Sad in the Rain

I just came back from my Grandpa’s funeral and I am very tired as he lives in a village back in the depths of Sarawak and I’m bitten and bruised and my skin is inflamed all over because I am sensitive to pollen and insect bites.

It was a very elaborate and noisy and grand funeral. I never knew there were so many customs. The last funeral I attended was my grandmother’s 11 years ago.

I went up by bus with mom and bro because Dad drove up really early for preparations. Grandpa passed in his sleep, he got up earlier to go to the bathroom but fell down and cried for help, and my uncle helped him up and back to bed. The next morning, he could not be woken up already.

It was scary when I arrived at his house because he was placed on a pedestal, dressed in a samfoo and in front of him was an altar with food, drinks, and the joss sticks. I could not pray with a joss stick because I was ‘dirty’ and there was no electricity so I was scared at first. All grandchildren wore blue and the children and their spouses in white. The grandchildren with different surname (mother side’s grandfather) had a red and blue wristband. I only had blue. My little brother, being the eldest son of my grandpa’s eldest son, was the “Big Grandchild.”

We were not allowed to wear red, talk loudly or wear jewelry. But my aunts did talk and catch up as many have not seen each other for a long time. It’s sad how families end up this way. I never saw my grandpa much. Perhaps more when I was a toddler and he lived in Kuching but after he moved Dad never stayed in touch either and after that I only saw him a few times and I did visit him in hospital the time he was admitted. After he was released we were all relieved because we had expected him to die in the hospital. However, there are A LOT of politics involved in my family, about lands, there are age-old vendettas from childhood, scandals about brothers stealing other brothers’ grain and a lot of “cutting off” and things like that.

We folded paper money for Grandpa the whole night. There were other stuff I couldn’t understand because I don’t read Chinese and I’m not proficient in Hakka, the main dialect there. It was very grand and dramatic. I found out that when people die you’re supposed to donate to them. Mum was shocked when she heard that someone donated a large sum to my dad and she said next time if that person has a death in her family we have to pay the same amount as it’s custom. However, my dad and his siblings donated a lot of the money to the various associations like the Hakka Clan, the Farmer’s Association so that it would be a grander ceremony and these associations would send their representatives to pray to him and also to send their ?gong-beaters? and beat the gongs during the procession. There were other Chinese papers stuck here and there which I couldn’t understand. We also couldn’t kill insects in the house in case it was Grandpa.

My Grandpa ‘chut ping’ at 1pm and my family had roles to play. Males on one side, females on one side. The master of the customs prayed and we knelt a lot. We all had to tie a cloth around our heads as mourners, white for children, blue for grandchildren. Daddy and bro had to carry the tongkat and wear special hats as they were the eldest sons. Mum, as the eldest daughter-in-law, also had a role to play. She disappeared very early on and in turns out she had to come with a huge joss stick and toss the ashes in Grandpa’s grave and then stick it onto his burial gravestone which was side by side with my grandmother’s. Then she had to hide away in the forest (lol) and no one could see her as it was pantang.

After the praying in the house and the tossing of the kidney shaped pieces my grandpa was willing to go. Also, they put him in the coffin and before that they placed a lot of clothes and paper money in the coffin. Dad had to feed him rice as a symbol and the daughters covered him with a white cloth. Grandpa looked very grand in his sam foo and beautiful shoes. Then they used an axe to chop the supporters of the coffin and other rituals and all I knew was once you left the house you must NOT step back inside.

We started our journey to the graveyard with the hearse in front and the gong-beaters second, followed by us. We reached there and did more prayers and burial rites and it was really, really hot and I felt very faint from hunger and fatigue. Then we went to serve food, like pig’s head and so on for grandpa and also offerings to the god of the soil to protect my grandpa.

After that we went back home and shortly after, we came down to Kuching. It saddens me every time I see how old people are treated, but at least we gave Grandpa a proper funeral.

  1. Deja Vu says:

    Long time no leave comments ya

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