Sunday, September 03, 2006

Malignant Beliefs.

I've always believed that when a person is close to death, you can see how their faces look like when they're laid in the coffin. It's usually obvious when that person is sleeping or lying in bed with their eyes closed. I've seen kong kong's and some other old folks before they die and they looked exactly the same in the coffin, just a little paler. Well, at least that was how tua pek looked like when I approached the grand coffin and peered into it through the glass. Nothing unordinary, his eyes were just tighter than usual. If I didn't know him better, I'd swear that he had his mouth curled up into a smile.

So there I stood, at the side of his coffin, staring down upon him, observing every tiny detail - from the white silver strands of his hair, to the buttons of his shirt where from the third button onwards, got covered up by joss papers till his feet - never once did the thought of him opening his eyes and springing back to life to scare me left my mind. I must say, arriving (from KL) after the crucial moments were over certainly gave the others a headstart in shedding tears of pain. Grace and I were only greeted by the moody faces of relatives and the solemn silence of the wake.

Well, everything's over now - the 5 solemn (and tiring) days of wake, the ceremonious funeral, the languishing cremation and finally, the collection of the bones. Tua pek was given a final goodbye with utter dignity and respect. At this moment, I gotta say that being involved in the undertaking industry himself for the whole of his life certainly gave him an advantage till his after-life. Most of the crowd that attended his wake everynight were his friends (from the same industry) that had no grieving families to attend to, all the necessary and thoroughly expensive Chinese rituals were sponsored by the people from his long list of clients and connections and other tiny funeral arrangements and needs were taken care of (subsidised) by his company.

I bet tua pek's probably smiling from beneath above, sipping kopi-o-peng (iced coffee), hanging out with ah kong and god-knows-who, and both laughing at our silly human antics. *sigh*. Yea, right.

See, I've encountered two deaths in one year, this year and I daresay that the difference of culture and tradition between these two deaths really shocked me. Things are outrageously different between a Catholic and a Chinese funeral. There are all sorts of beliefs and rules to abide to during a funeral. Trust me, I would love to go on about the vast difference between these two death but (as usual) I'm senile. It's like I get so inspired and so many ideas come to me when I'm sitting at the humid funeral parlour alone, every now and then gazing at the joss stick that was lit to keep vigil. But everynight I come home, I'm so dead tired that all those ideas seemed to be buried into my pillows. Besides, my room was occupied and I had to spend everynight in the living room.

But there was one prominent difference that I have to point out. The chinese (in my case, Taoist) are way too superstitious. It freaks me out to hear all the explanation given by amah or one of my aunties when asked about the reasons about certain do's and dont's. They highly believe that there's an afterlife. Actually, I don't quite know what they believe. One moment, my second aunt was blabbering about re-incarnation and how the deceased will be reincarnated into different animals. Another moment, amah's explaining about how wealthy (with all those hell money we were burning) the deceased will be in hell and stories of re-uniting with ancestors. Really weird. They spend a huge amount of money in paper effigies like houses, cars, and TV which will later be burnt for the dead into the afterlife. They offer all sorts of food that the dead liked when he was alive, believing that he was THERE to eat it. I was like, is this for real?

I don't even want to think about it. I comfort myself with the fact that these remain as beliefs of different people from different religion. To me, open burning destroys the environment. Spending so much money for those paper effigies to be burnt is kind of like burning cash. And it gives me the creeps to be staring at the food laid in front of the coffin, imagining tua pek was there actually eating. With all those illustration of chinese ghosts in chinese horror flicks, it was definitely hard for me to imagine the spirit of the dead, descending down from heaven with his glorious wings and perpetual white light shining down from heaven. I can only think of unhappy, haunting, souls standing by with the look of dark hate burning in their eyes. I can't say I totally do not acknowledge the existence of ghosts but I can say that it all remains as a mystery to me. Bone chilling mysteries!

But apart from all these mind-boggling beliefs, the whole process gave me quite good opportunities for me to photograph. Which explains the many days of my absence from blogging. I was really busy with all the photographs - editing. I took the urge to experiment with Photoshop, actually. I had it installed but I never came around to using it. So it took me quite a while to delete, edit, and compile the pictures into CDs for family members who wanted a copy of my photographs, seeing that I had the camera glued to my face all the time. It was also an excuse a good way for me to skip a big part of the rituals. In total, I had about 2000 photographs that required a big space on my drive. I had to make way for these new sets of photographs, so I spent a good amount of time, compiling archive photos into CDs before I inserted these.

Photoshop runs extremely slow on my computer but I learnt a thing or two about it, with the help of Digital Camera Magazine (they give some really kick-ass tips and tutorials!). Managed to make it into two CDs for family members and I still haven't received any feedbacks. *sigh*. And for the past week, I find it oddly satisfying whenever I manage to correct a picture and I thoroughly enjoy the time I spent, editing my photographs and going through the tutorials over and over again. I don't know why, but I'm happy when I'm in contact with my photographs. Strange.

Anyways, it's back to school tomorrow. I've skipped three days of school last week, attending only one day and enjoying another day of public holiday due to the country's Independance Day (Merdeka!), all in continuation after the one week of school holidays which was cut short from tua pek's death. I thought I deserved all those days off, working on my photgraphs. Don't I? Well, I'm sure Mr. Khor wouldn't be pleased to see me after for such a long time. I've missed so many lessons from school and I'm seriously slacking! Think about theamount of homework! Urgh. And Grace is back for her term break and will be here for this entire week! Back to life for me!

No comments: