In Death, the Celebration of Living

Today's my dad's funeral. We all got up early for the preparations. People arrived early, some just to pay their respects before they went off to work, particularly those who couldn't make it the night before.Last night, we had a huge thunderstorm and in addition to that, the city council had closed off a major intersection leading to our housing area for the 'opening' of a newly built fly-over, thus causing gridlock in town. Many people had to turn back because they either didn't know the alternative route to our house or the rain and the massive traffic jams just prevented them from getting here. This morning the four monks arrived at 9am sharp, and we promptly proceeded with the chants. We then lined up in a row and offered the food to them, one dish at a time, starting with me, being the eldest son. Once they got their food, the rest of us had our breakfast too. When everyone was done, we were asked to sit in front of the monks and we chanted a bit more, and one of them told a story (a bit like a sermon I guess) in Thai, and another translated it into Hokkien for us, mostly for the benefit of my Chinese-speaking family members. The key points mentioned was that we shouldn't be sorrowful for the loss, but instead we should celebrate the fact that my dad has done great deeds in life and will definitely be going to a better place. The reason for his short lifespan was due to the karma in his previous life, but in this one he has redeemed himself. We then had a short 5 minute meditation session, visualizing my dad free of suffering and making his way towards Buddha, for peace and happiness. After that was all done, the family had one last look at my dad in the coffin before it was finally sealed up. Traditionally in Chinese funerals, there was one final show of respect with the funeral director calling upon the different groups of acquaintances of the deceased to bow in front of the coffin, in the order of family, business, and friends. The coffin was loaded into the hearse and we, the three sons and my mom rode with it to the crematorium. My grandparents were not allowed to follow us there because they are from one generation above, and are regarded symbolically as 'life-givers' so they should not witness the final rites for their son. We led a long procession of cars to the crematorium and our group was quite a crowd there. All of the flowers that were given had to be brought over and burnt together with the body. And we got a LOT of flowers... 53 arrangements. So much so that it took them a good 10-15 mins to unload every one of them from the van. All of us, including visitors, then walked around the coffin, leaving a piece of sandalwood or a flower on the top of the coffin, and 'walking over fire' (a pot with burning incense paper inside) and finally washing our hands in floral water. As we were doing this, a Pied Fantail flew in and watched the proceedings from one of the beams above. This is one of my dad's favourite birds. Everybody then adjourned to a vegetarian restaurant for lunch at the end of it all. Today, I actually felt it was a joyous occasion rather than a sorrowful one, strange as that may sound. With the blessings of the monks and the attendance and fellowship of friends and relatives, there was a very good and happy vibe going on. In fact today's the birthday of one of the monks in attendance! It was almost like my dad intended _not_ for us to weep but instead be happy and party on and celebrate life. Even after we the family all got back home we had tea while chit-chatting and laughing about things and not dwelling on the sad things, and sometimes sharing funny anecdotes about my father. I'm so glad my good friend Jaime actually took leave and came up to Ipoh with her family too to send their regards, even though they don't know my dad personally. Thanks so much. Likewise, we've gotten _immense_ response from the condolence guestbook I had set up on my dad's web site -- laurencepoh.com -- and I had printed the messages and put them on a notice board. It's a shocking realization to many of our visitors as to how far reaching my dad's influence has been with messages coming in from all over the world, most of which are from people who have never even met my dad in person. Tomorrow we'll be going back to the crematorium to pick up my dad's ashes, and taking it to Pos Slim, a small village on the way up the new road to Cameron Highlands, and he will be put to rest at his favourite birding spots, among the birds he loved so much. My uncle has put up some photos of the monks' cave temple from the day before.

Monday thoughts

After my father took his last breath, everybody was gathered around, not knowing what to say or do next. We thought we needed to get a doctor to certify his death, and called the hospital but they told us to call the Police instead, which we did. Since this was a natural death, Police said to go to the station during office hours.We then called up my grandparents to inform them of the sad news, and I went with my uncle to pick them up. The were in tears when we arrived. Once everybody's together back at my house we discussed what would be the next step. We called up the funeral parlour to make the necessary arrangements to get my dad's body cleaned up and prepare for the wake. As dawn broke, a light drizzle fell, as if the heavens were weeping too. Some people in the house said they say a white moth flying around the house too that morning. Some of the closer relatives started arriving that morning itself already. Kit, my dad's favourite black cat, had been keeping vigil in my dad's room in the last few days, and was visibly agitated when he couldn't find my dad after his body had been moved and put into the coffin. He's also been sulking around the house and now spends most of the day sleeping and keeping watch on one of the couches facing the coffin. He knows. The other animals too have been acting a little strange, but Kit is definitely badly affected by the loss. As for us humans in the immediate family, we seem to be holding up relatively well. We had our shedding of tears before and during his death, but now we seem to be more occupied with the preparations for the funeral, and it seems to be more for the visitors than for us. I guess with all these things going on, it's a bit hard for us to contemplate the loss and grieve. I think Tristan is feeling quite distressed because he's the closest to my dad of us three brothers, although he doesn't really show it. This morning we went to the cave where the monks reside, and offered them _Dana_ (breakfast) and they chanted and sent 'merits' to my dad. The Buddhist monks will be having _Dana_ here in our house tomorrow at 9am, and followed with the funeral ceremony and cremation at 11am.

Death of my Dad

I was awakened early this morning to be called to my father's bedside. We supported him and gave him assurance and he finally passed on peacefully at 4:30am, this Sunday 19th September 2004.It was a relief to see him calm and relaxed, happy that his family was all around him. The shock still hasn't really settled in. I'm feeling a bit numb to the whole situation at the moment. Making myself useful with the preparations and decisions regarding the funeral. I've set up a guest book on laurencepoh.com if anybody wants to leave a message.

United

My uncle from canada, and aunt from singapore arrived this morning, and they came over to our place. It was a tearful moment as everybody was hugging and crying. The Poh family is now complete, and I'm sure my dad is happy for that. He's going down really fast and mom tells me he says he's ready to go, to let go. He's refusing even to eat or drink now, as if starving himself. But it can be understood, he's unable to digest and absorb his food. everything that goes in just comes back out as-is a few hours later, and when there's there's stuff sitting in the stomach he starts belching and feeling sick and uncomfortable.In a perverse way I hope he is able to go soon and be relieved of the stress and pain. It is difficult to see in him this state.