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?
10 thoughts on “What Do You Believe About Death?”
It’s never easy to cope with death especially when it comes to somebody this special and close to you. *hugs* Be strong and if what all religions belief of an after life is true…you’ll be with her again..one day.
jo: that’s a nice thought. 🙂 i’ll take it.
Hang in there alright???
*Big bear hug*
jo: i will.:) thanks.
Jolene, yes it is true that not every ordinary people gets gems in their ashes when they (the deceased) were cremated. only higher monks and extraordinary ppl like your aunt is blessed with good karma gets those gems, wad not to say – emerald jade like.
death may be really hard for people around her to accept the sudden fact, but (to me) it may be less painful for the deceased to go through death – rather than having to bear critical illness or pains on hospital beds and slowly passed away. My uncle just passed away months ago while taking an afternoon nap, a real shock to the family, but he passed away smiling in his dreams.
you’ll be stronger. hugs!
jO: aaaah…thanks for the explaination. =) i’m now enlightened.
it’s scary to suddenly go. but it might be a good thing coz no one loses their dignity and energy in the long run, rite? sorry about ur uncle too.
thing happens for a reason, if we dont know the reason, perhaps let’s us give it a reason, give it a positive one, give it a meaningful one, give it a reason that puts us together, comforts the rest and make us move on.
jo: yes..that sounds correct.. thanks.
Dammit I opened this page and now I don’t know what to say to you.
jo: it’s okay. thanks for commenting. :)Â Â Â Â Â Â
That hanging bit was 12 years ago??
jo: yeappp damn long right.
my deepest condolences, Jolene. Your Yee Ma sounds like a really wonderful person. She would want you and your family to move on. She may have left physically but she has left a legacy behind, one that will always stay in the hearts of her loved ones. Big hugs.
while I haven’t have a first hand experience in losing some one close to me, most recent one being years and years ago when I still don’t understand what death is, I know how it feels weird when one day they’re here, the next they’re not. I had a fren who lost someone really dear very suddenly, and it came as a real shock to not only me because I’ve seen the late relative just the day before, looking perfectly fine. Didn’t expect that coming and I myself find it hard to handle the truth – so I know you all must be taking it hard. But I do believe death is destined and if my time is up, no matter what I do, my life will still be taken away regardless of what choice i took. the only difference is how.
I used to think, I would rather die not knowing I’m going to die, but after what has happened around me, I changed my mind. While it’s more painful in my perspective to endure the slow process of death, and possibly more painful for those who cared for me, I think preparation makes such a big difference.
Hope you’ll stay strong and I know you will.. *hugs*
jo: =( sorry about your friend’s uncle… Yeah, preparation. Didn’t think of it that way. I guess I’d rather my family members go suddenly, then seeing them suffer. But I would want to die slowly so that the people around me has time to say goodbye and for me to tell them that I love them even more. Thank you for helping me find the answer to my query. :)Â
so many questions and yet no answers to any of them. i don’t believe in religions but i think buddhism provides some very good answers (albeit it not being a religion itself).
i can’t give you answers cause i haven’t experienced anything close to what you’ve been experiencing lately but i know you’re going to be strong. take care ok?
jo: 🙂 yes, very..how do you say…….logical teachings. Hehe.
yes i will be strong, suet. Thanks babes. *hugs*
my condolences to you and your family.
l believe death is a temporary separation, until that day when we meet again.
jo: thank you..i take comfort in that thought. 🙂