Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ashes to Ashes Dust to Dust

This blog won't be a happy one, or a biographic one. So excuse the tone and feel free to skip it, this post will be more for me than anything else.

To the left is the picture of my grandmother after she died. And to the far left of that, is her body about to be cremated.

My grandmother apparently picked out the outfit she wanted to be cremated in. (She specifically wanted to be cremated and buried next to her husband.). After she suffered her stroke, my uncle and aunt found a suitcase with a note from my grandmother. It indicated that these were to be her funeraly clothes. She picked out the red silk suit, and a small set of shoes, and finally a blanket with a Tiger on it.

Some of her choices were significant. The color red in chinese culture usually is reserved for times of celebration, and is especially known for being worn at weddings. My uncle mentioned to me that there is custom probably when a someone reaches a certain age, for them to wear red, rather than the customary white used for mourning, to be buried in. The idea is that at a certain age the passage of life to death is a time of celebration rather than mourning. The Tiger on the blanket also has meaning. My grandmother was born in the Year of the Tiger under Chinese Zodiacs. TIgers are supposed to be fearless, courageous, born leaders, yet also stubborn, hard headed and fearsome. She was all of those things in spades. Interestingly enough, i too was born in the year of the Tiger, and i took a sense of pride in that connection. She never talked about being a tiger, and so it came as a surprise that she valued or identified enough strongly with her chinese zodiac that it would make it to the last wardrobe. It was a pleasant surprise.

I wish i could celebrate her death like she apparently wanted us to. I really do. But i can't. I wish i could take comfort when people mention that she has lived a long and rich life. Or that she was a special person. But i take no such comfort.

My family, aside from my father and me, are people of faith. They believe deeply in God, and i witness first hand how that faith can sustain people in times like this. I wish i could have that sense of comfort or security. But the fact is, i don't believe in Heaven, i don't believe that her soul exists eternally. And i take no comfort in her passage from being a person that i loved and who loves me, to being a cold collection of dust and ash in an urn.

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