Friday, October 11, 2013

A Taoist Funeral Experience

My late father-in-law breathed his last on 8th October 2013 after suffering from leukemia and some other complications for several years. He has been in and out of hospitals for the last 4 years including seeking herbal treatments in China. He was just 64 years old and sadly, that's a bit too young to go. I will miss his wits and humours.

He had requested to be accorded with the rites of the old fashioned Chinese Taosim funeral after he had passed on. It was a real eye opener for me to observe this whole ritual ceremony that spread over 3 days in this dainty town of Kampar, in Perak. I have previously attended many modern and smaller scaled Taoism rite funerals but this recent one was being carried out with almost to the fullest scale that sent my eyes big.

 My photos are very limited as no one in this superstitious clan would ever dream of taking photos, let alone to even blog it like me. So I photographed them without anyone's knowledge.





1. If the deceased had passed away outside the home ie. hospital, the coffin would normally be placed outside their home's compund or at funeral parlours.




2. We hired several Taoist Monks (Namo Lou) to conduct various ceremonies and chantings in Cantonese dialect. The many ceremonies covered different criteria including the deceased crossing the death bridge, sickness clearance, blessings and many more which required the family members to kneel, bow and walk in circles for many hours each day amidst the clashing of Chinese cymbals, drums and beating gongs very loudly.




 3. The family even bought him a huge paper mansion complete with maids, Assstro and a sports car. Do you believe that these costly paper offerings for the dead will reach them? I would say the answer is both Yes and No, if you could try to understand that the departed souls are in their frequency form and it's only our thoughts and prayers of frequency form could reach them. So the departed may receive our thoughts of any form. Some who did not receive could be burning in the bottomless hell's realm.




 4. The funeral had a band too and the diva could croon out very sad & eerie songs that gave me goose bumps. This band later followed the funeral procession where they blew loud trumpets with the clashing of cymbals & huge drums being played.




 5. The minimum days to keep the deceased before funeral would be 3 days, subject to the decisions made by the family. Some would follow up to one week or more. In modern Thailand today, a funeral could even take up to many months! The above photo was the hearse which transported my father in law. The funeral took off at 10:00am after many rounds of last paying respects ceremony by the immediate family, relatives, friends and business associates.





 6. I am the only son in law and had to lead the whole procession by walking right in front with red cloth banner slung across my shoulder. I had to pay the carrier RM150 to parade the tall banner written with my name while I trailed behind him for some 3 kilometers journey!
It was the longest funeral procession I have ever attended in my life! The hearse left the home atop Kampar's Golden Dragon Hill and winded its way down to the main street. The hearse made its sombre journey across the 3 mains streets from one end of the town until the other end, passing the big fields, markets, lakes and all the business establishments.




7. The morning procession halted the traffics and attracted hundreds of curious passers by who were attracted by the loud band playing funeral songs. Of course, everyone had a good stare at me for leading the whole long procession that spanned some 50 metres. I kept flipping my hair back and wiped my greasy forehead sweats to make sure I looked handsome and smart. Ahem!

We all ended up at the new cemetery outside the town. The Namo Lou (Taoist Monk) conducted the final rites which included the tossing of a live chicken sacrifice-ritual over the grave!!! It gave me terrible goose bumps and spine chills to hear the poor chicken balking loudly "Kiok-Kiok-Kiok-Kiok"...! I closed my eyes tightly and looked down.
The second son made decision not to let the Namo Lou wrangle the poor chicken's neck so the monk threw the chicken at my brother-in-law to catch and release. The chicken had a new lease of life.

The End.







110 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. My father passed away that time, he was only 62 :(

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    2. Thank you and sorry to hear about your father. He was even younger. How sad!!!

      It rained so heavy yesterday!

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  2. I used to see the funeral procession when I was small.

    No more now.

    I guess less people do it?

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    1. These days the journey has been shortened as people realised the traffic jams were unfair moreover it is not practical. It will not help the deceased with anything for causing inconvenience to hundreds of people.

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  3. Again Anay,
    Deepest condolences to Letchumi and you.

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  4. Thank you Anay for sharing your experience.

    Now, some of us who doesn't know about it learn something.

    I learn about Chinese funerals as both of my parents CFO had passed away so I witness how it was done, being one of her staff.

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    1. I wished I could write more as I planned earlier. I really wanted to share and explain but realised I would end up giving my own opinions which I disagreed in some areas.

      To me, a funeral should be sombre, peaceful and as quiet as possible with the most minimal expenses for the departed ones..............Here, I have to refrain my itchy mouth from commenting further.

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  5. My condolences to you and family TM.
    8ct Oct is surely a sad day for you all.

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    1. As I know, it's either 3 days or 5 days, depends on the family. Usually if the deceased has lots of friends/relatives then will be 5 days, so that those staying oversea/outstation can have time to come back to pay last respect.

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    2. Thank you for your condolence and comforting words.
      I agree that some families kept longer to wait for members to return but the old people were often accorded with a week's funeral wake.

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  6. I'm sorry to hear about the death of your father-in-law. Please give my regards to your wife. I must admit that I found your description of the funeral rites to be fascinating. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    The Governor's Palace I pictured in my blog is a reconstructed building from our colonial period. The royal governors of Virginia lived in this house. The capital of Virginia is in a different city and the home of the governors is not quite this magnificent.

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    1. Thank you George for your condolence and comforting words. The world's races have different cultures and that makes the planet interesting.
      Thank you for enlightening me about the royal governors of Virginia. Interesting!

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  7. my deepest condolence to your wife and family on the lost of the family member..

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    1. Thank you SK for your condolence and comforting words.

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  8. you are right, photos during funerals have been seen as taboo.. but nowadays people's perspective have changed.. from being considered as taboo, taking photos may be now perceived as remembering the moments of lives.. we've seen more and more photos of funerals posted in social media, but i would say this post is the very first post i have ever read about a funeral..

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    1. I kept the photos to the minimal and reserved much comments of my own opinion as a respect too otherwise it would be blown up! LOL.

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  9. different families have different ways of arranging the rites as well as different sets of practices to follow.. for example the first photo where you mentioned about placing the coffin outside the house if the deceased did not passed away at home.. some follow, and some will actually bring the body back home, perform some rites and treated that the deceased actually passed away at home - that's actually what most of the elderly actually wished..

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    1. Yes I have heard of that many times in Penang and that was quite eerie & sad for the family members to "fake" that the deceased was still alive. I cannot think of other races who practice this Taoism way.

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  10. i am always curious if those expensive paper offerings will actually reach the soul, and thanks for the answer yes or no.. though i still don't quite understand what you are trying to explain.. maybe i shall read that paragraph a few more times again later..

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    1. Have you managed to digest my theory of YES and NO? Just think again deeply, that this world and the beings are revolved around frequencies. The paper offerings are certain frequencies too before and after being burned.

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  11. hmmm, there was a separate band from the group of monks?? i thought usually there will be one from the group of monks or nuns that actually "bao kah liao" everything.. they chant and they also sing while performing all the rituals.. maybe the Cantonese clan is different huh??

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    1. The Taoist monks were not band players but merely clashing cymbals, drums and other instruments as they chanted without loud speakers. Those band players wore uniforms and played with mic & loud speakers blaring.

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  12. oh, you led the procession?? and it is the son-in-law's responsibility to do that?? interesting.. and this post really shared a lot of information and practices of a big scale taoist funeral, really an eye-opener.. and that live chicken part, i've also heard a friend mentioned about throwing that live chicken and someone has to catch it - no failure allowed as that would mean something not good to the family..

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    1. The Taoism beliefs often placed in-laws as some respectable outsiders hence they had to wear some red cloths besides doing the leading roles to lead the procession while the immediate deceased's family had to mournfully push the hearse from behind. These days the Mercedes engines tend to drag them instead. LOL

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  13. My condolences..
    This post reminds me of my later father who died when he was only 49. My late PIL died at the age of 60 plus too.

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    1. During my late FIL's funeral, I took some photos as a remembrance. But I didn't take any photos during my late father's funeral.

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    2. Thank you Wenn for your condolence and comforting words.

      Goodness your father passed away so young! That must have been very tough for your mum and all the children. I am sorry to hear that. You must have been so depressed that you would not think of photography. We had no blogs and internet in those days.

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  14. My Goodness---what an interesting funeral. I am very sorry that you lost your YOUNG Father-in-law.... Regards to you and your wife. I was very interested to read about that funeral. That was SO different from ones in our country. BUT--he obviously was a very important man and had many many friends who were there to show their last respects.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. Thank you Betsy for your condolence and comforting words. The funerals here would be eye openers for all Americans. I have seen the American funerals and they are always being carried out so beautifully and respectfully with the floral arrangements, prayers and even limousines!

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  15. I am sorry to hear on your loss on your father in law, my deepest condolence..

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I had only been to a funeral for one time, I was 17 and my school mate died in a car accident. Til today the memories of that funeral is somewhat still in my mind.

    I always always wonder about the paper offerings will reach them in the afterlife or not, now I know.. But still not very understand on the yes part.. Means they will receive our 'thoughts'? Yes?

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    1. Thank you LouizYee for your condolence. You are absolutely correct that if they are in the right situations, they will be able to receive all the "thoughts" and probably just enjoy it. If they are lost somewhere, they will have no connections with their loved ones.

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  16. God bless his soul, may he rest in peace. Condolence to you and your missus and the family.

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    1. Thank you very much for your kind words.

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  17. My condolences to you and your family

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    1. Meow, thank you for your kind condolences.

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  18. Your late FIL no son ka? I thought son supposed to lead the funeral procession

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    1. He has 2 sons and the oldest son normally has the most important role to hold the urn with the big joss stick burning to lead the deceased while the son-in-law has to lead the processions.

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  19. Long time no see this tong tong chiang. Last grand ones was my grandpa's. Then my grandmother ones not that big ceremony. My grandpanones was very big.

    Grand unckes too.

    I recall they hv sin in this world so had to go through fire well. The namo lou threw coins over ther fire n burn something. Next morning when the fire died the decendants pick up the coins to keep. For luck or something like that

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    1. In the olden days the funerals of the wealthy were so huge and grand with long processions. These days people have found it unnecessary so they scaled down in many ways and often donated money to make merits for the dead.

      The Namo Lou also threw coins for us many times to pick. I don't really believe that it would bring luck so easily unless it was the God of Wealth who threw the coins. LOL

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  20. No photo? My grandpa one got photos leh. Got the photos of the casket too.

    Speaking of casket.. the son n daughter tarak ask the grave digger to cut a chip of the casket to keep ah? Forgotten for what purpose but I recall old days ppl got cut a chip of it

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The hearse got photo lah but you also advised me not to simply post to respect the deceased.
      I would never dare to ask for a chip of the casket!!! Goodness!!! Did you save one to make your book mark? Wakakakaka

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  21. My condolences to you and and your family!

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  22. My condolences to you and your family mate...

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  23. My condolences and thank you for sharing. Quite an interesting post and insights. :-)

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    1. Thank you for your condolences Coffee Girl.

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  24. RIP to ur late FIL. in fact, a fortune teller also predicted that i will die at age 64, and i will get prepared for that day, which will come quite soon....

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    1. Oh my goodness how could you believe the fortune teller?? It will keep reminding you to get ready for the number 64 to arrive. Have you included me in your will??? Wakakakakakaka

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  25. More than make feel sad, I really laughed reading yours. This funeral ritual was similar to Indian custom.

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    1. Heh heh...my post was not supposed to be sad one. I am glad you laughed. I think the Indian custom's funeral is quite meaningful too.

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  26. Your post is just like life itself: sad and funny at the same time.

    My condolences to you and your family, and thanks for sharing this fascinating ritual!

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    1. Thank you for your condolence and glad you found it sad & funny. That's life!

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  27. Condolences to you and your family.

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  28. Sorry to hear the sad news, my deepest condolence. Well different dialects have their own style T & C apply. Agree with you no Yes or No answer on why they burn this and that.

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    1. Thank you for your kind condolence. I bet you could understand about this Yes and No answer to the paper offerings. Sometimes the Taoism funerals today have swayed away from its origin as taught thousand years ago but no one knows how to compare.

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  29. Sad event but lively post. After all life is impermanent as everyone gotta go thru this final stage beyond the veil. Bananaz sees this very often as its part and parcel of his job.

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    1. We should not view this funeral topics as a taboo or superstition as no one will escape this. We should talk openly about this and express our wishes & thoughts. By right, one should live meaningfully and do good while still alive.

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  30. For son-in-law we said in Cantonese 'nui-sai kei' *son-in-law's flag* which is mandatory in the Chinese community. Some would insist the son-in-law to contribute a whole roasted pig for prayers on the funeral day thus burning a hole in the pocket with a roasted RM1,000.

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    1. Thank God, I was so relieved that they didn't ask me to offer the roasted pig as I feared. They probably read my mind that I would object flatly on the idea of killing a life for the funeral. To me that's bad karma la. RM1000 must be a huge sized pig!!!

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  31. Well some s-i-l who are rich enough no sweat or else they can share cost with other s-i-l. Sorry lah for your case you are the one and only one s-i-l you bear 100% of the roasted oink oink.

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    1. Huh?? Where got sil share roasted pigs??? I have seen funerals where each sil had to offer one oink oink!!! They even placed red paper flower on its heads. Goodness!!

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  32. In KL we do have live funeral band but merely music not so much with singing. We often say three most important events in our life starting with birth at full moon ceremony, the wedding ceremony and last & final, the funeral ceremony.

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    1. In the olden days the live band and singer had to wear those old Chinese opera costumes to play and sing all the sad songs. There will be a part where the deceased's family had to kneel down around the singer who would impersonate the deceased! She would sing mournfully to the children that she was so sad to leave them behind..... making them wail out buckets of tears!!!

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  33. Yeah we went through the throwing of kiok kiok kiok at the grave yard for my grandpa & mom & dad. For all you know all of them used those huge traditional coffins like those in the movies and need many people to carry. The catcher must not missed catching the chicken, very tension during that very moment but all the time never missed. Guess the namo lou could have gone through his training from some famous American football coaches in throwing.

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    1. Those big olden day coffins were supposed to shape like gold nuggets, correct?? They looked scary sometimes. You are funny to describe the Namo Lou being a baseball pitcher!!! I guess the chicken could never fly astray as their legs got tied up tightly so the catcher could easily grab the wings being spread out. I was the back up catcher behind the son to grab the ayam!!! I think it was absurd somewhere.

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  34. Sorry to hear about this. My deepest condolences

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  35. Wow! You actually blogged about it! I think some people may not be happy if they know you blog about it. Or will they?

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    1. I blog about facts just like you but I will never blog into 5 part series of funerals. Wakakakaka

      I didn't ridicule the deceased so he should be happy that I shared with the world's readers to understand about our culture. Even many Chinese here do not know much about funeral rites as times have changed so much.

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  36. How come you need to lead the procession as the only son in law?

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    1. That's the Taosim rites that the son-in-law has this important role to help to lead the procession to make way while the grieving family had to "push" the hearse form behind.

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  37. SO this is the full scale funeral rites? Most funerals are shortened nowadays right?

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    1. Most funerals have been shortened these days for many reasons - traffic obstructions, costs and logical beliefs.

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  38. Oh those sad and eerie funeral songs - I always feel scared listening to them! Why can't they have some happy songs? Death shouldn't be something sad - it's should be a new beginning for the departed soul. Of course, I am just saying this with my limited knowledge.

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    1. I also thought that we should be singing religious or happier songs like the Christians who often sang. I even attended one Christian funeral where the 2 brothers played guitar and sang for their late sister who passed away at a teenage. They could smile at the start but started weeping at the end. So sad!!

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  39. Coincidently I am now blogging about Lillian Too's Spiritual Feng Shui that touches on what happens after one dies. I wonder if the Tibetan Buddhists and Taoism's rituals are quite similar?

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  40. Guess the total amount of money spent for the whole three days two nights funeral ceremony ie casket, live band, namo lou, food, groundnuts & drinks, canopy, bus etc may be in the region of RM20,000?

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    1. In the small town, it was cheaper like less than RM15K.

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  41. The burial lots in Kampar may not be that expensive compared to those in Klang Valley where a double burial lot easily going at RM30k-RM50k. Like the saying goes 'its not cheap to die' nowadays.

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    1. Yes the burial plot is definitely cheaper in Kampar but I didn't ask the price to be safe!
      It is definitely not cheap to die even since 20 years ago. Those days they were saying the same thing about prices going up. We can choose to cremate for hygiene and cost saving reasons.

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  42. So have you pre planned your final home like what I did? Bananaz have purchase a double lot and the funeral ceremony package few years ago. No taboos for me coz life is impermanent and death is certain. Cost of goods and land would increase over the years and will be certainly much more expensive as years go by. My late dad bought a piece of burial lot at age 50 and passed on at 92. He even paid deposit for those traditional Chinese coffin too with the type of wood and colour of his choice. At his death no hassle at all in getting the funeral arrangement in order.

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    1. I didn't buy any package but I have planned to be cremated instead. I foresee myself living in overseas someday so I would make it simple and easy to leave this planet.

      I do support the idea for those who bought their packages and plots early like your father's case. He really lived a good long life and saved his family so much $$ leaving no hassles! That was very good Bananaz Papa!
      I had a classmate whose father died in a car crash when he was 15 and his mother never expected herself having to find the whole neighbourhood to borrow money to buy coffin to bury her husband. She told me many times when I was schooling and that incident has etched into my mind till now.

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  43. Only two weeks ago we purchase a Christian funeral package for my god-mom shared among her two sons as she is 89 years old without the burial lot as we have purchased a double lot during the demise of my late god-father.

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    1. I could guess what noble profession you are doing to make everyone's life better right now and later.
      I would say that the majority of the human populations are cash strapped due to karmic reasons. That's where their wise planning with you is a must.

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  44. My condolences to u and ur family. I dislike funeral and this one looks kinda solemn to me. If I were to have a funeral in future, I would want my family members to celebrate it like a party... i'm going back to my real home! :D

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    1. Thank you for your kind condolence. You really cracked me up with your party funeral wish. I have heard several deceased whose friends played band music at their funerals and sang his favourite songs too!

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  45. I'm so sorry for your lost! My father-in-law too, succumbed to a dreadful disease about 2 yrs back. He died of cancer. Both my parents & in-laws have huge different in culture; my family is very modern & do not follow any traditional beliefs, but on the other hand, my in-laws are completely the opposite. We held a 7-day funeral for him, & it was the most tiring moments of my life.

    Thanks to my mom, she taught me a handful of tricks so I didn't suffer as much. She was afraid that that there would be too much bowing & kneeling for me to handle, so she suggested that I have my knees heavily padded. That really saved me! Hubby & mom also talked about buying t-shirts from Giordano. I innocently replied, "I thought those are provided." The response I got was that my son & I won't like the material & may itch from it. Thank goodness we'd prepared these well in advance. There were more, like cutting a cardboard & place it under our socks during the sending off ceremony, so our feet won't get "heat stroke" from the hot ground. Lol! Sorry if you feel we're unfilial, but we feel that filial piety should come when a person is alive & not when he's gone.

    We had almost the same type of ceremony. 7 days was quite an elaborated one, I was told. I learnt that a 4-figure sum was spent. It's crazy!

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    1. Thank you Shirley for your kind condolence and wonderful comments shared~!! I should have known how to pad my knees too. I really wanted to scream my lungs out as I knelt on the old tarred road which had so much sharp granite pebbles poking my knees! I thought I have sinned so much to get the sharp poking stones!! LOL.

      I also felt my feet was hot but we had to wear no frills slippers and clothes provided by the undertakers. I also changed the T-shirt to my own as the ones provided was too tight with itchy materials. Wow! I would have bought Giordano too!!! Now you have shared a brilliant idea that I should buy ahead some nice and comfy black mourning clothes ready before the next funeral.

      I agree that it was very exhausting after funerals.

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    2. Alamak, should've learn from me earlier. Lol! The ground was scorching hot that day. Even with the cardboard, my feet were burning hot.........

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  46. my condolences.. i think i've been to one too in the past, a different experience.

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    1. Thank you for your kind condolence. You have only attended only one Taoist funeral??

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  47. My deepest condolence to you and your family. Sorry I'm late. Hope everything is settle by now.

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    1. Is that the very famous band in Ipoh? Cos I remembered my FIL hired a band from Ipoh. Well known for their Cowboy's hat. But from the photo I didn;t see anyone wearing it. Hehehe...

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    2. Oh we hired the music band during my grandma's funeral.

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  48. Thank you for sharing such memorable funeral, it's so meaningful for those curious people like me.
    I love how you control handsome during that sweaty day lol...

    Let's pray that your FIL will RIP.

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  49. You're such a responsible son in law.. something that us, your friends should be proud!!!

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  50. OMG!, this is my first time to see someone blog about funeral. Anyways, send my condolences to the deceased~ >.<

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  51. My condolences, sorry I am late, RIP uncle. My father also passed away at 64. It seems that nowadays people don't live long, is it because of the processed foods and chemicals we consume?

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  52. My condolences. RIP.

    Ya, people will be angry if they knew you took pictures.

    I was scolded (more like just told) that I can't take pictures of people sleeping. Because I was going to take a picture of my roommate sleeping and show him later. But another roommate stopped me.

    Anyways, happy weekend :)

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  53. Condolences. For item (6), it's actually beneficial for you~ god luck, etc. When you mentioned ultra-traditional, I was expecting the traditional coffin as well!

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