We cremated my Yee Ma on Saturday morning. I’ve always feared cremations because of how inhumane it seems. On one hand she’s there, that person we’ve known all our lives and the next thing you know, she is reduced to a stack of bones in an urn.
Previous experiences with cremations were not the most pleasant. My grandparents’ coffins were swung in to an open oven. You could see the fire burning inside the oven before they put the coffin inside. As the coffin enters the cremator, the door slams shut with a loud bang. The undertaker than asks you to scream out your loved one’s name so that his soul will come out as his or her body is being burned. The worst part is listening to your family members screaming but nothing quite beats the sound of the horrifying whoosh of fire engulfing your deceased family member.
Below are photos of the ladder and the table that caused my Yee Ma’s death. There were pigeons nesting and defecating above my grandmother’s room windows and she didn’t want to poison them but decided it would be a better alternative to put a wire mesh to prevent the birds from flying into that space to nest.
So she put the ladder on the table, extended the ladder to its maximum length(what you see in the picture is only half of its full length) and got the maid to hold on to the ladder while she climbs all the way to the top.
She managed to fix one half of the netting on the left side of the space above the window. She then leaned to the right to fix the other half.
The maid said she didn’t dare to look up because she was afraid of heights. The next thing she knew, the ladder felt tons lighter. My aunty was already on the floor.
My grandmother and her driver went out for ten minutes to throw the rubbish when it all happened. When they returned to the house, there were many maids from the houses nearby who were outside their gate. Upon seeing my aunty on the floor, the driver quickly picked her up from the floor and carried her into the car. They drove her to Pantai Hospital. Doctors said they couldn’t do anything as the injuries were too extensive. An 8cm fracture at the back of her skull, a few gashes, a crushed spine and badly damaged internal organs. She died about three hours after arriving at the hospital without regaining consciousness.
My grandmother sat next to her bed and nagged at her, “I’ve told you many times, don’t climb don’t climb. Yet you never listened. I’ve not gotten over your brother, you know?”
My grandmother can’t cry because she damaged her tear ducts when my third uncle passed away at 19 years of age, right after his first year at Otago University. My mum was only about 13 then. A flu bug went into his heart it seemed and just stopped it. Grandma took it really badly then and had holed herself up in her room for a few weeks.
She seems to be dealing with this better but it is unfair that she has to see two children passing away. She still has three kids who will care for her even more from now on. And eight grandchildren who are very very worried for her and will continue to love her and accompany her whenever we can.
According to the maid and the neighbours, my Yee Ma frequently climbed the roof tops of her four stories bungalow to fix and paint stuff despite other people repeatedly telling her not to do, not to do. She’d tie clothes together as harness as she paints the walls on the third floor(about 20 metres above the ground or even more?). She taped two biscuit tins together and would step up on it to reach a higher level while painting the wall, WHILE standing on the second floor’s roof top. She’d put a chair on the third floor roof top, tie it to somewhere sturdy with a clothe and then sit on it and do her painting.
She’d rather do this than pay a few thousand bucks. She could also then exclaim happily to visitors that she did this and that to beautify her already very beautiful house.
Till now, her death is still very hard for us to digest. Throughout the funeral, friends and relatives kept saying that these things are fated. Is it really?
Obviously there would definitely be only ONE exact way in which a person dies. As for my Yee Ma, her death involved a ladder, a school table, a maid(she could’ve been more attentive but she was afraid to look up due to her fear of heights), some pigeons and wire mesh. If she only knew that all these factors would play a part in her death. You know, that very ladder. That table. That maid, the last person you would see in this world.
But should we really believe in fate?
By believing that deaths are works of fate makes it seem extremely inescapable. Although it’s true that nobody can avoid death but is it really written in the stars somewhere that this is the one and only way for a person to go? Do you believe in the whole “if your time is up, your time is up” mumbo jumbo?
I really don’t know what to believe.
As it was an accident, she could have fallen on any part of her body. Why did it have to be her head? It could’ve very well been her hand that broke the fall. She need not be put into that coffin just because she fell off a ladder! It’s so trivial, you know? She didn’t have to climb that stairs. It was her choice!
What Lie Yuen said is true. I was asking her if deaths are really fated and she likened death to the Nicholas Cage’s show, Next. She said, for every step taken, there will be a different way for you to go. Like many destinies waiting for you at the end of the line. Variety is always a good thing, right?
I have started reading a book about life and death to try to come to terms with this. Very Buddhisty.. as soon as one is aware that suffering is a necessity and rises above it and how everything in life is impermanent, then he is truly released from the sufferings of the world. This doesn’t sound like me right?
On the other hand I’m also attempting to read The God Delusion. My brother and dad gave me a cool quote from the book, “One deluded man is called insanity. Many deluded men is called a religion.”
I want to understand buddhism but yet not let go of my atheist mindset.
Here’s a good example of how I will always place science higher than the rest of the beliefs in this world:
After my aunt’s cremation, her bones were a bright shade of pink. At the head of the femur(or the humeral head), there were specks of green deposits. At a glance it looked like jade barnacles clinging onto her bone. It could be scraped off, as demonstrated by the monk.
He said that my aunt’s bones were colourful because she has done many many kind things in her life. It was also very rare for a person to get those jade-like deposits on their bone. It was a rich emerald green. According to the monk, it had something to do with karma.
While I’m not sure how that really works, I am however a true believer that my aunty’s bones were colourful because she was an extremely colourful person.
On the more logical aspect of things, I consulted the almighty google and found out that the colour of the bones after a cremation usually varies according to temperature used. Alternatively, certain discolourations could have been drug induced. But I can’t find anything on the internet about the jade-like deposits. :\
My mother believes that the energy just merely goes back to the universe when a person dies. For a number of years, I’ve always assumed that that was the teachings of my religion. Turns out to be mum’s own ideologies. Seems like the Battery Theory that I’ve always believed in.
Her death does not seem real because we didn’t see her waste away. Every moment I will myself to wake up from this horrible dream, everywhere I look reminds me that she no longer gets to enjoy this world that I am in.
Would you rather a loved one to go this way or would you need some time and indication as to when that moment will arrive so that you will be fully prepared by then?
When Nian Ning passed on, I wondered to myself, “Would it be better if I die before everyone? Or if everyone dies before me?” I definitely can’t bear the pain. But can I bear the pain of those around me crying? Certainly not. I’d rather everyone die before me.
And now my aunty.
Would you rather a loved one die relatively slowly or just be gone in the blink of an eye?
I have yet to give myself an answer.
The former seems too cruel. If you really love the person, you would never want her to suffer for even a single day.
If my aunty had survived the accident, she would not even be a fraction of who she was. We keep telling each other that it is better for her to be gone than having to endure the horrible possibility of being bed-ridden.
If she was in the ICU for many days, the feelings would probably be more heart wrenching than dealing with her death. Every phone call induces a heart attack, every thought is splattered with worry.
Is death a form of release?
How would you rather die? In a tragic accident that you would never even know of or would you rather have the time to deal with cancer or some other terminal illness?
12 years ago, my grandfather’s older brother hung himself from the ceiling of the three stories shop lot that my family owns at Jalan Munshi Abdullah in Malacca. He had Alzheimers and as he was a doctor himself, he couldn’t bear the thought of losing his dignity to that degenerative disease. We speculated that he probably did not want to burden his family members for having to care for him.
He chose the path of suicide upon contracting a terminal illness.
Is death still a form of release?
Is it only a release for the person who dies or for the people around you who now have one less person to worry about?