My maternal Grandma finally passed on last week on 19 August 2017. I didn’t tell anyone about the passing of my Grandma; only to people I work with in the office. Just didn’t feel like saying anything and that it also wasn’t something that I felt needed to be publicised.
The last few weeks have been rough because her condition fluctuated so much but in her final days, she was basically too weak to eat, drink and just stopped defecating, urinating and all.
However, it’s not all bad because it was some kind of relief from all the years of being in and out of the hospital and hospice. My Grandma had 8 kids so there was many to spread the medical bills but even so, it was starting to be a strain. Money aside, it was very emotionally and physically taxing for my mother (who is the eldest of 8) and my aunts. So yeah, it’s a kind of relief nonetheless.
Now that I’m much older since the last funeral of my paternal grandmother, I’m more conscious and aware of the details of a funeral. It’s such complicated shit. Plan your own funeral people; it’ll be so much easier and simpler for the people you leave behind.
My Grandma being born in 1933 was from the pre-war generation so she is big on tradition and all. She literally specified what she wanted at her funeral. And it’s a good thing she did that otherwise her children would end up squabbling over what to do at the funeral. #truestory
Also, there are so many traditional rituals required at the funeral and they differ by ethnic group as I now realise. My Grandma was a Buddhist and so she wanted some Buddhist rites as well. It was halfway through the funeral when I realised that I didn’t know which of the rituals were tradition and which ones were religious. 🙁
Morbid as it sounds, the details of a traditional Chinese funeral are actually quite fascinating. I’m not sure if this applies to all Chinese ethnic groups but as I learnt from my Grandma’s funeral (based on the Cantonese customs), if the deceased is above 80 years old, the candles and joss stick base has to be red to signify that they’ve had a long and good life. I’m curious to why 80 years old is the benchmark but I couldn’t find anything on Google. If you do find something, send it along coz I’d be interested to read about it.
Also, in the simplified customs that we now have in Singapore, the descendants of the deceased should be in a white top and black/dark blue pants. All descendants would then need to put on a coloured square cloth (孝 / xiào) pinned on their sleeve (男左女右) which specifies what is their relationship with the deceased as follows:
- son & their spouse — white with coarse hempen sackcloth
- daughters & offsprings of son — black
- daughter’s husband & offsprings of daughters — blue and red
- great grandchildren — green and red
So quite literally, from one look, you know who is related to the deceased and how they are related without needing to ask.
Speaking of ask, death is always a hard topic to broach and there really isn’t anything you can say or do to change the situation much so just stick to safe questions/things to say like:
- are you ok?
- how are you? / how is everyone at home?
- sorry to hear about the death of <???>
Strangely, this time, I got quite a few weird questions and comments:
- (in response to my office notification of taking compassionate leave) “did someone die?”
- “how was the funeral?”
- “you look so down.”
How does one respond to questions/statements like that? Serious question. It’s hilarious now but it wasn’t as funny the very next day after the cremation. It was just pure incredulity.
Anyway, the wake, funeral and cremation is over but there’s still a few more rituals to go before everything is done and dusted. I can’t tell you guys not to die but I’ll just reiterate again, post dying is complicated shit. Research and start planning your own funeral people.