Thursday, March 23, 2006

Buddist funeral - day 1

Guess I need to take a class in different religions, or at least in the death ritual aspect of the religions. A Vietnamese funeral is here for the next three days, viewing today and tomorrow, service Saturday. It seems to be a huge affair. The relatives carted in ice chests full of soda, bottled water, food, flowers, I don't know what else. I'm hungry and lunch looks like it may be slipping away. It's been such a busy morning, Tom is in with another family making arrangements, so the Vietnamese family keeps asking me things. The daughter wants to change her mother's make-up, Skip dove into the midst to see what they should change. I think he did the make-up himself earlier. He just walked by in his whole blue outfit, gloves and all, headed into the chapel. He said "c'mere and give Papa Smurf a hug". It's weird to see him in the public areas in that outfit. The hair dresser called me this morning to ask what style the woman had, the only picture of her was over here. So this whole thing was crazy to start with, the funeral was going to take place at our other home, but they didn't have the availability the family required, so it all got shipped over here. I just peeked into the chapel. They're moving the casket, hey, stop that. They put it up on the little stage. Tom will grumble about having to get it back down, I wonder how he'll do it by himself, he'll probably have to ask some of the men to help him. Now I hear hammering. I hope they're not putting holes in the wall, what will Tom say, he left me in charge and they're reconstructing the chapel. yikes. I better go check. Well, now that I've looked, what am I supposed to do? They're hanging up huge banners, maybe 5 feet by 8 feet in front of the chapel. They're hammering huge nails into the wall above the podium. Maybe I shouldn't have looked, it was better if I didn't know and then won't have to take responsibility for not stopping them. This place has taken on a circus type atmosphere, children are running around playing. Family members are going from the chapel to a smaller viewing/family room. I should've worn a suit. I didn't realize so many people would be here today so just wore slacks and sweater, I feel sorely under-dressed. And I'm so dang hungry. I suddenly find myself wishing I could speak Vietnamese.
It's later now, some of the younger guys were asking me about working here. Do I ever see or feel spirits. Unfortunately I had to say no, although I think it would be okay if I did. Certainly I'm just as curious as they are about spirits or ghosts or whatever. Only good, kind ones though, do you get to choose? No nasty ones, please.
Someone just came in and asked for duct tape. Tom came into the office just as the young man walked out, and exclamed (much too loudly for my comfort) "What are they doin' in there???" I had to laugh. He checked out the chapel, shaking his head as he returned, "It's not as bad as I thought from all that noise." It is pretty noisy. I like it. It's more life than this building has seen since I got here, it's good. More flowers are coming in. "Norel, can you get us another table?"
It's almost three in the afternoon, I haven't eaten lunch, there's some much insense I can barely breath, and I usually like incense. Blue hazy clouds pouring from the front of the chapel. They've opened the back door of the building, which has Skip chomping at the bit. He wants me to go close it, but he doesn't want to be choked out. He said "Cats love to come in and chew up bodies." I asked how often he'd seen that in his thirty years, he laughingly admitted he really hadn't, but he'd "heard about it happening". Right. He did say he's seen rats chew off faces. Gross. Guess that settles the open or closed casket question. Ha!
A meal is set before the deceased. Rice, boiled eggs, shrimp, fruit, vegetables, incense, and flowers. It's beautiful in an odd sort of way. The daughter put bows on the end of the pews, it sort of resembles a wedding chapel, well except for the casket and the flower sprays, ok the only part that is wedding-y are the bows, they seem a little out of place. In the back is a memory table of sorts. Pictures, folders for the guests, sign in book. I appreciate how much this grandmother was loved and am surprised by the huge turnout.

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