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Mon 27 Mar 2017
My Grandmother's Funeral
Written by Panrit "Gor" Daoruang   
Friday, 09 February 2007 01:43

You know, my mum asked me to do something I really hate. She asked me to shave all my hair and eye brows off. She said I have to put on an orange robe and not wear any underwear. Do you want to know why? She wanted me to become a novice monk for my great grandmother (on my father‘s side) who died recently.

My great grandmum died when she was 95 years old. My mum told me that she was a very kind person and my mum really loved her. I didn’t really know her that well because I only saw her when I was a baby and a couple of times when I was a kid.

Now, my great grandmum is in a temple and my parents and relations are preparing a funeral for her. The funeral will go on for seven days. My parents and grandparents will have to go to the funeral every day. Really I have to be there to help them too but I am a bit busy with my work so I told them I couldn’t go every day. They seemed to be a bit angry with me when I told them that.

I went to the funeral on the second day. When I was there I saw that everyone was tired. My mum was sitting down at the table in the kitchen area with sweat all over her face and clothes. I saw that she was holding a big tray. She must have just come back from serving water to people at the funeral.

I walked into the kitchen to meet her and paid her my respects, but she didn’t say anything back to me. She must still be angry with me after I told her I wouldn’t become a novice monk. At that time, I asked her "Why don’t you get Guy (my younger brother) to do it. Why me? Do I really have to do it?" She replied to my face, "Guy has already agreed to be a novice monk. What about you? Can’t you be a good great grandson like your brother?" Those words kept me quiet for a while. Later I asked her why should I have to do it while Guy has agreed to do it already. She replied that it’s because I am the oldest great grandson in the family and really I must do it, not Guy. I told her my excuse that I had lots of work to do. But, really I just didn’t want to shave off my hair. It takes a long time for me to grow it long like it is, especially as I have curly hair.

I went to get a big tray from the kitchen and then I went to get bottles of water to put on it. It was quite heavy to carry around. Now I understood why my mum was hot and sweaty. I went to serve the water to the guests. While I was serving, I saw my dad and other relations running around doing something. They looked very tired. There were a lot of people who came to the funeral but not many people were helping. I was walking and serving all day. I didn’t even have time to eat. Then I knew why they wanted me to come to help every day.

I went there again on the sixth day in the afternoon. My parents were still running around. They looked like ghosts when I saw them. I quickly went to help. When the day finished, my uncle came up to me and told me that tomorrow is the last and the busiest day so they need me to come to help. I agreed quickly because I was now feeling very guilty. Tomorrow my great grandmum will be cremated and this will be my last chance to apologise to her for being a bad great grandson.

Part Two 

The seventh and last day for my great grandmum’s funeral. I went to the temple with my girlfriend. I asked her to come to help with the work. We were there quite early but not early enough to have a rest first. Tai went straight to help my mum in the kitchen while I went to help my dad prepare flowers made from thin pieces of wood or dok mai jan in Thai. Watching us was a group of novice monks, nehn. I looked at them and then I started to laugh when I saw my brother, Guy or nehn Guy, I should say. He was the fattest novice monk in the group.

A few hours passed. The monks had finished chanting. The details about my great grandmum were read out on the microphone by one of my relations. While she was reading it, some people started to go up to the crematorium to put dok mai jan under my great grandmum’s coffin. My aunt’s little daughter was standing by the steps giving out a souvenir to everyone when they came down.

I waited for a while until there were fewer people, then I went up there with Tai. She asked me while we were walking up what she had to do when she got up there. I laughed at her question. She was a bit grumpy and said that she had never done it before. I told her that what she needed to do is pray for great grandmum to go to heaven and put the flower under the coffin when finished. We came down and got souvenirs from my cousin.

When most people had gone home and there were only close relatives left around, it was time to open the coffin to let everyone see her and say goodbye to her for the last time. Tai said she wanted to take a look. She looked very excited maybe because she had never seen a dead body before so I went up there with her. I took her to the front of the people there. Most of them were very sad. I paid respect to my great grandmum and took a last look at her then I went down to wait for Tai. She came down with a shocked face. I couldn’t see her excited face anymore. I asked her what’s wrong? She replied with a quiet voice saying that she was scared of my great grandmother. I saw her eyes were watering and the tears were about to come out. She told me she would never go to a funeral again.

The coffin was closed and moved inside the crematorium by some people at the temple. Those people then lit the fire. I saw some smoke coming out from the top of the crematorium.

My grandfather was walking up the steps with some of those wooden flowers in his hands. He walked to the fire with tears in his eyes and then put those flowers in the fire. Everyone in the family followed him up and did the same thing. Everyone tried not to cry because Thai people believe that if your tears drop on the dead person, you will make them worried and they will have to swim through your tears to reach heaven.

I felt terrible while I was standing and looking at the fire. I said to myself "I am sorry, great grandmum. I know that I am a terrible great grandson. I should have become a novice monk for you. I should have felt this earlier. Now I can’t really do anything about it. I can’t go back in time to change it. The only thing I can do for you now is pray and make merit for you to help you go to heaven. I shall keep doing that. I promise great grandmum."