Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My trip to Taiwan

I did not post too much about my trip back to Taiwan to cremate my father. I needed some time to process everything....and I think I'll always be trying to process that experience. In Taiwan, they've used the Buddhist tradition to hold the cremation ceremony. So my sister, my stepsister (I'll write more about her in a later entry), and myself donned black robes and escorted a wooden container which represented my father from the small temple which housed similar containers and to the temple that the service took place. What I did not know was that my father's remains was placed on a stretcher in the back of the temple which also served as a kind of staging area for the remains of the deceased.

My sister and I had to positively identify my father's body. He was still, frozen, and his body looked a bit swollen due to the embalming and the freezing process. He did look like he was asleep. The whole ceremony involved a lot of incenses, bowing to the portrait of my father, Buddah, and there were a lot of chanting by the monks and the Buddhist nuns, in language that I could not understand. A lot of distant relatives, and my father's old friends showed up, even my mother, whom I have not seen in more than 10 years showed up.

There were a lot of crying, smiling, and exchange of thanks for the people who had showed up. At the end of the ceremony, my sister, uncle, my mother, and I went to the crematorium. One of the funeral directors for my father's funeral was more than nice, explained how everything was going to proceed, and what to expect to me, that was very comforting, and I'd like to thank her from where I am to where she is.

The conveyor pushed my father (in his casket) into the oven, and we were told to wait by this small resting area until the cremation process was completed. It took about a hour and a half. At that time, we were told to gather in this small room.....according to Chinese tradition, the oldest child of the deceased was supposed to pick up some pieces of the bone fragments and place them into the urn picked by the family. I didn't know what to think or expect.....seeing my father in the flesh one moment and then seeing his skeletal remains the next. When they wheeled him in, there were a lot of large joints and fragments of skull, and I remember especially his lower jaw bone...with teeth already gone. My father was a tall man, and his bones were quite strong, my sister and I definitely got our physiques from him! (Minus the boobs!)

I picked up a few pieces of my father's bones with these extra long chopsticks and place them in the urn, followed by my sister, and uncle. After that, they sealed the urn and wrapped it in this gold colored cloth. The urn sat on my lap as we drove to the temporary holding place of his ashes. It was strange, holding the remains of my father in my lap....I was trying to remember when I had sat on his lap when I was little, but that was sort of blurry.

It was a rough few days in Taiwan, battling jet lag, as well as trying to get through the unfamiliar customs of Buddhist burial. All the past regrets aside, I was really pleased to see that my father had a lot of friends, and that part of him will live on through his children. Even though we were not close, it still is a major regret that he will never see his future grandchildren....and not being the best at storytelling, it'll be hard for me to try to explain and describe those in my family who have passed on before they were even born.

Here is a picture from way back when, of my father (he was the oldest of three kids), my aunt, and uncle....from a much more innocent time (I'd like to think)...and one of my most preferred way of remembering him....young and innocent.


Beth said...

One of your best entries ever!

SassyFemme said...

I'm not sure I would have had the emotional strength to do what you did. My thoughts are with you.