After I walked away, of course I was instantly comparing cremations and funerals in the east to those in the west. And I couldn’t get over how open and normal it feels here. At home it’s dark, gloomy, depressing. But here, as I was looking around at the faces - there were people simply chatting, smiling even… (no laughter of course) but it all seemed fine. Many would say, it’s disrespectful smile when such has tragedy has only just taken place. But here it’s probably more appreciated than anything else. At home, if people are to smile anywhere near a funeral, they’re easily considered heartless. I didn’t feel I had to put a sad face on… (of course that face inevitably came when I was near the body, but once I stepped away, I didn’t feel I had to keep a frown on my face) even when saying goodbye to Unnithan sir. Maybe it’s the difference in religion… I don’t know… but I felt that he, and his children, would appreciate a smile of encouragement instead of a frown of misery, when I went on my way.
So I left after the rituals had taken place. I only stayed for 45 minutes. I knew what was going to happen pretty soon after leaving, and that was something I didn’t need or want to see. The cremation itself. And this is the thing that DID throw me: having the cremation in the very same spot – 3 meters from the back door of the house. Wouw… I couldn’t believe it. There was a pile of wood stacked high, just beside her body, waiting to be put on the fire that her son was going to light. This is all apart of their traditions… having the person cremated in the garden, close to the house, so the spirit remains with the family. Then the ashes and bones are gathered after a certain amount of days and for a whole year the family will bless the remainings each day before they’re finally sent out to sea.
The thought of the son having to light the fire – was a little hard for me to swallow. I never knew any of this… So I couldn’t help but constantly compare it to home… we see nothing of the cremations and we do our best not to think of what will happen to the body. And here, it’s so open… simply disposing of a carcass that held her mind and her soul for 60 years.
After leaving, and arriving back at the hostel, I thought I’d be quite upset about the whole thing… but I was nothing of the kind. I was actually relieved, happy and at peace. To see a body with no life made me feel safe, it didn’t fill me with fear. It made me feel blessed. Why? Because I realized suddenly how fragile and precious life is and that it’s a gift to have it, right here and now. I was feeling so intensely that this is the only time we have. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring… And because of this uncertainty, I now know I have follow certain things through in my life, things that my mind tells me are ‘undoable’ and ‘out of reach’. My mind tells me it’s best to forget them. But why should I? Life is way too short… I have to at least try what it my heart is telling me to do, whether or not my mind fills me with lies stating I can’t do these things and that I’m doomed to fail. I know I’ll be a bigger failure if I don’t give these things a go, especially now that I’m so close. Because, yes, I find myself at a crossroads on the journey and this happening on Sunday was a huge lesson… and I obviously needed it, to choose what turning to take in the most focussed way with as little effort as possible. I’ll let this set for now and continue later. Thank you for reading.