Thursday, February 21, 2008

Home After My Uncle's Cremation

I had to take a day off today, for my uncle's cremation. I'm back home now and I'm wondering if I should show up for yoga class. Probably not.

My relationship to my family is complicated, partly because I always feel the need to restrain (and suppress) myself in front of my relatives. Family, especially certain aunts, can be vicious and petty. But today was considerably painless, I guess because today everyone is on their best behaviour.

One of my cousin is working in the Middle East right now. He was in town for Chinese New Year, flew back to the Middle East on Monday -- but he bought a ticket home again when he found out about my uncle's passing. His plane landed just in time today for the service today.

My uncle was a retired school teacher and some of his former students were there.

Four of the nurses from the nursing home where my uncle was staying during the last few months of his life came. We were surprised that they bothered. It was very sweet of them. My dad said it was probably because my uncle was such a good-natured guy. He was. My late uncle was a man with layback charms. He had no airs, and he was kind to people. He obviously left a deep enough impression with the nurses in the final months of his life.

My cousin, G. was crying during the service. I didn't ask her about it, because her tears seem private. She lost her father a few years ago to liver cancer. She was going to donate part of her liver to help her father, but he passed away before the operation.

During the service when the congregation was chanting, I stared at the black-and-white photo of my uncle -- my dad's second older brother -- and I found myself focusing on the family resemblance between my uncle and my dad. They have the same ears, they share the likeness in their eyes and their mouths -- but my uncle had a sharper, more V-like face.

My eldest aunt and cousins were looking around the coffin earlier in the afternoon. Apparently they were looking for "lucky numbers". (There's the belief that sometimes the dead will pass on "lucky number" for the lottery. It's their way of rewarding the living, I guess. My eldest aunt seems to be the expert in discerning lucky numbers. She won $20,000 in the lottery a while back, and it financed a holiday to Beijing)

It was so traditional I couldn't help just smile. Uncle M saw what they were doing, and he just muttered (with good-humour), "Fortune-hunters."

There was no lucky number on the coffin, but when the chartered bus arrived, Eldest Aunt piped, "The bus has numbers." And she scrambled off to the carpark.

This is not to say we were enjoying ourselves at my uncle's funeral. We loved my uncle and we grieve his passing. My Eldest Aunt wept during the service -- she loved her younger brother. But in the space between, the living were just being themselves, doing strange things like looking for lucky numbers. It felt bearable, being with my extended family during the funeral.

Cousin G. drove us home after the cremation. On the way G's mother started gossiping about the other relatives, and other families. G understood that her mother is one of the "Vicious Aunts" I have always tried to avoid.

G's mother spoke badly about how some children from a particular family grew up reprobates. How they take drugs, have tattoos, and two of them have homosexual relationships.

That was when I shut off mentally. People die, and the living just continue being themselves.

11 comments:

Nymeth said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Dark Orpheus :(

That last line of your post, though...that's so very true.

serene said...

Hey you-
I'm sorry about your uncle. Take care , ya? I'm glad you found some humour in your aunts searching for "numbers"- I would have been a little peeved, but it does make sense how little things like these can be some kind of relief...

jpderosnay said...

it sounds like he was much-loved.

and its saddening about what your aunt was saying.

Chris said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your uncle's passing DO. Like Nymeth said...the last line of your post is so very true...the living go on living. People tend not to change their ways under any circumstances. It's quite sad really...

Dark Orpheus said...

Nymeth Hey, you're back! :)
Thank you, we're okay. Life is back to normal. Life goes on and everyone just goes back to being themselves.

Serene Well, it was my Eldest Aunt -- whom everyone respect, so it's hard to be angry at her for the lucky number thing. *tsk tsk* Fortune-hunters. ;)

And it's a good comic relief because if we're expected to not laugh, not smile AT ALL it would be unbearable.

My Uncle chatted up (some say "flirted" -- but not in front of my aunt) young nurses during the last few months of his life. I don't think this guy will want people to stop laughing just because he's dead.

JP My aunt will be herself. But sometimes I think she can't be that bad because her daughter is one of the more sensible person I know. Her daughter would give her liver to save her dad -- and I believe my aunt must have done something right to deserve a daughter like this.

My family suddenly sounds complicated. ;p

Chris Thanks -- but like I told JP, my aunt can't be a bad person. She just has some undesirable traits.

Iliana said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. It is strange isn't it to see life just going on. Take care of you.

indigo said...

I can close my eyes and see that scene you described - it seems to be a standard for a number of funerals I've been to. Especially the going-ons behind the scenes. UGH!

I hope you're doing ok.

Stefanie said...

Sorry about your uncle. Family is hard sometimes, but can also a comfort in sad times.

Dark Orpheus said...

Iliana Thank you. I suppose that's how humans survive. We have this ability to just move on with our lives.

Kisane You mean the fortune-hunting scene? Okay, that was actually kind of funny. Edlest Aunt was just "looking" -- then suddenly my cousins, my mom and other people started looking.

It was, kind of fun.

But with my Vicious Aunt (my karma is going to suck for calling her that) -- she has mellowed somewhat over the years.

Family. *sigh*

Stefanie Thank you. When the hearse was moving out, that was when the tears really rolled -- for my aunts and uncles, my parents. And it was kind of touching then to see my cousins all supporting their parents.

It's family. We bitch about each other from time to time, but we also show up when we are needed.

Matt said...

I'm sorry to hear about your uncle. I hope you'll feel better. Hugs.

The time of mourning usually will ease any hidden feud in a family and bring everyone together. I try to avoid certain aunts when I'm in Hong Kong to see my family. My brother and sister would be tight-lipped about my whereabouts, or they won't even breathe a word about my being in town.

I have never heard of the lucky number superstition. I should have checked my mom's coffin!

Dark Orpheus said...

Matt Thank you. You have aunts to avoid too? It happens in every family, doesn't it?

My colleague was just telling me the other day how they found the some serial number on the grandfather's coffin - and they won money.