The drive home to Seremban was solemn and dark. The events of the day had passed so fast that I didn’t have time to think, to feel, to grieve. I finally had some time to ponder about the day while driving. It was finally sinking in. My mother has passed on.
7.30 pm – Arrived at the funeral parlour in Jalan Temiang and was surprised to find only my brother CC beside the casket burning the joss paper. I had expected my sister from Malacca to reach first since I have informed her at 1 p.m. Where was my Singapore sister? She was told at 1.00 p.m. too. Where are my nephews and nieces? It was a silent reception. May and I immediately light some joss sticks for mother and I checked out on her. She looked good. She looked peaceful.
8.00 p.m. – My tardy sister, TH and my brother in law CS finally arrived with my nephew TK about half an hour later. They appeared a bit freaked, lighted their joss sticks in haste and did not view mother that night. CS and TK then left to pick up my 3rd sister LH from the KLIA airport. LH arrived shortly before 10.00 p.m.
I then arranged for two shifts for the nightwatch with CC and LH taking the first shift from 11.00 pm to 3.00 a.m. while May & I will take the 3.00 a.m. shift. We went back to the Temiang house for a shower and grab a couple hours of sleep.
2.30 a.m. – The alarm woke us up rudely. May and I promptly returned to the parlour. LH and CC left for home to rest. The parlour was then deserted. It was only the two of us with mother. There was another body in the adjoining parlour but there was no one taking care of the dead there. Strange that people will cry and wail in the day in front of public but in the wee hours, the dead are abandoned. The two of us laboured through to dawn.
4.30 a.m. – Like Murphy’s Law, a cat did appear and there is an old Chinese belief that if a cat jumps over a dead body , the dead, it would become an undead? Not that I believed in such nonsense but a belief is like a bondage and I did my duly duty to chase the cat away. At least, the puss provided some entertainment for the night.
8.00 a.m. – My other siblings arrived. May and I went for breakfast and returned to the parlour immediately after.
I was immediately seconded to fetch the funeral organizer to the graveyard to make burial arrangements for the next day. The weirdest thing happened after the arrangement been made when the funeral organizer asked me to send him to the Seremban Agape Church as his fiancé is waiting for him there. I was utterly shocked at this revelation. What’s a Chinese Taoist Funeral Organizer doing going to church. Is this a sign? Is this a calling from God? I was a bit freaked. Lord God, Jesus! Forgive me.
11.30 a.m. – I returned to the parlour and found that my cousin LK who helped to arrange for most of the arrangements waiting for me. I was requested out to pick up SK, my cousin from Seremban Parade and to go Rasah to pack vegetarian food for the monks who were supposed to conduct the prayer ceremony. Did as I was told and in a minor defiance, I bought KFC (meat) for everyone else and it turned out to be a hit
Late noon – The folks from Singapore arrived, my sister LS, my brother in law CT, my nephew CK and my niece WY just in time for the start of the prayer ceremony. The atmosphere was a bit more jovial and the tension in the air appeared to be lifted. Maybe it is because of the jovial nature of CK and WY. Maybe TH and CS felt a bit more relieved that there are more present to share the burden? The four lady monks who assisted with the prayer ceremony were quite comical especially the two younger lady monks who were probably in their early twenties and were recruited from China. They reminded me of something out of an anime cartoon.
Afternoon – More relatives arrived in the afternoon and the visitors kept coming in till evening. The rest of the day was spent greeting visitors, burning joss sticks and joss papers continuously. A production line of about 10 was set up to fold the joss papers into lotus shapes.
Sunset set – My other niece, SP arrived with her hubby and the family reunion is now complete. We finally have a complete set of children and grandchildren for the prayer ceremony. If my mother was watching, this would be the moment she was waiting for.
10.00 p.m. – The finale of the night was the burning of the paper house with the lotus joss papers which the production line spent five hours went out in smoke in 5 minutes.
10.30 p.m. – One of the monks suggested that we all go home to rest and also said that it is not very safe as the parlour was known to be robbed in the wee hours before. She added that we could pay the caretaker of the place to burn the joss papers for us. CS taking the cue from the monk, declared that it was a good idea and asked everyone to go home. I scorned at the idea and stated that I wanted to stay. CS was quite insistent that we should all go back.
CC, LH and May said that they will join me to stay the night if I am staying. I then suggested for the four of us to go back to shower and return to the parlour. I asked the rest to wait for half an hour for us to return.
11.00 p.m. – We went back to shower and within 10 minutes everyone came back as well. CS kept insisting that it was alright and there is no need to stay overnight. TH tried to ease the situation by stressing that it was not safe and it was okay to leave mother alone. I was utterly dumbfolded.
To be continued in – The Funeral