Monday, September 28, 2009

Where It Started

Last Saturday we paid a visit to the place where it all started. The first thing I noticed was a large warning sign at the entrance of the beach. It looked very old and rusted, but nonetheless it was very clear. It warned people of the dangers and deaths of this beach. Despite this sign, there were still surfers and little children at this beach.

No further did we walk down the sand we saw the rocks where they found my uncle's body. It was so close. So close to the entrance. My uncles who went for the search that day pointed to a distant spot out into the ocean and said that was where the helicopter found my dad. His body had drifted so far out. We decided to walk to the spot where they pulled my dad's body out of the water. It was a 0.8 mile walk on the sand.

All along the walk we noticed a graveyard of logs on the sand. It was washed up ashore from the devastating August 8th Typhoon in Mid and Southern Taiwan. The debris made its way all the way up to this northern most tip of Taiwan. All thru the walk we noticed there were debris in the ocean still making it's way up. It's been a month and a half since the typhoon. I can only speculate how much drifting logs were around when my dad and uncle were here. I can only speculate how these logs may play a part in their deaths.














we noticed a lot of these fellows washed up ashore, dead.


video

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Farewell

We had a double funeral for my dad and uncle on September 24th. Traditional funerals takes lots of time and formalities. The night before the funeral we had a prayer ceremony from 9pm to midnight. While we prayed, my dad and uncle's bodies were being prepped for the casket. We decided it's best not to see them before the caskets closed, that it's best to remember them for who they were when they were alive and healthy.

After the ceremony, we had to stay up all night keeping the incense lite. Some went home to sleep, some took turns sleeping a couple hours each, and some stayed up all night. It was an exhausting evening. But it was also a bonding experience with the family.

By 6:30am people slowly gathered at the outdoor lot were we had a temporary tent set up for the funeral reception. At 7:30am we started the family reception. By 8:30am we started the public reception.

At 9am, my uncle's coffin took off on his dream car, the Cadillac, for the mountains to be buried.
At 1pm, my dad's coffin took off on the same car to be cremated. By 7pm we carried my dad's urn to his final resting place where he is at peace now.



The tent where we had the funeral reception. It was split into three separate areas, the first is where the reception was held, the middle is where the coffin laid, and the last area is where the prayer ceremony was held the night before.




Instead of flowers, some people choose to give canned drinks (I think this is a Taiwanese thing)



The tower where my dad rests now.




View from my dad's place. On a clear day, you can see the ocean.


Culver City Lotus Burn


While we were busy making lotuses and paper money in Taiwan, friends from half way around the world in Culver City gathered together on Sept 20th for a Lotus burning tribute to my dad and uncle. Thank you Andy for arranging this and every dear friend who went.

Below are the wonderful pictures taken from friends:


(photo by Deborah)


(photo by Deborah)


(photo by Deborah)

(photo by Deborah)

(photo by Deborah)


(photo by Mika)


(photo by Jim)

(photo by Jim)

(photo by Jim)

(photo by Jim)


(photo by Leo)

(photo by Leo)

(photo by Leo)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rituals

In Taiwan (and many other countries as well) there are specific rituals we must follow in honor of the deceased. Since my dad's funeral arrangements are done the traditional way, there are many many things to follow, ceremonies to perform, and daily routines to carry out. Every day at precisely 6am I prepare a small bin of lukewarm water with towel, a tooth brush ready with tooth paste, and a set of his clothing and set it in front of my dad's shrine so he can "wake up" and get ready for the day. While he is "getting ready" I prepare his breakfast. Daily meals include two dishes with rice and a drink. At 6:30 his "bath" water is put away. At 7:00 breakfast is presented in front of his shrine along with paper money, paper lotuses and paper gold nuggets. After about 30mins I'll "ask" if he is done with his meal. To do this, I'll ask the question holding two coin in hand, and toss the coin up in the air. If it lands with a head and a tail that means yes, he is done. If otherwise, he is not done and I'll wait another 5 more minutes for him to "finish". After he is satisfied with his meal we burn the paper money, lotuses, and gold nuggets for him for the day. This ritual is repeated every day, morning and night.

On specific days, ceremonies are performed. There are a total of 7 large and small ceremonies we do before the funeral. Large ceremonies last about 12 hours and are done outside the house, we combine my dad and my uncle's ceremony together for these days. Small ceremonies last about 3 hours and are done separately inside the house with 3, sometimes 5, guides to lead the prayers and chants. For each ceremony, 12 dishes are prepared. And it is said that during the days of the ceremony the deceased are more likely to receive the items people burn for them. So during these specific days we burn an extra amount of lotuses and gold nuggets.

Do I believe in any of these rituals? No. In fact, I question a lot of these acts. And I believe a lot of the things we do are absolutely ridiculous. But I still follow them. I follow these acts out of respect for the culture and family. In fact there are members of my family who faithfully believes in everything. I believe these rituals and acts are made up by people as a way of coping with the loss. It gives people a sense of purpose, a belief that there is still something you can do for your lost loved ones. It is something to fill in the hollowness of the loss.





One of the daily meals.


Burning after today's prayer ceremony. The hat is worn only during the days of the ceremony.






Prayer Book.

One of the small ceremony held inside my living room.

Extra dishes prepared for the day of the ceremony.
Tooth brush and bath water before bed.