Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Death 2


Next day, if you were tired enough to sleep through the party that lasted most of the night – I’m thinking “rager”, here, but without blasting music – next day, the loudspeakers are engaged with sad Thai songs and periodic messages from the village headman. Also, more people arrive to help the family get ready for the major ceremonies leading up to cremation. This may involve further cleanup of the property, neighbors clearing their land to be used for overflow parking, installation of large blue tents to shelter people from the sun and any possible rain, and rental of both blue and red plastic chairs.

Cremation takes place only after the proper Buddhist ceremonies have been made and upon the decree of the head monk the family holds highest. Usually, the length of time is about three days, but can be seven. In our family, when Lungta Wah passed away in 2011, because he was a monk, his brother Sakhon (also a monk and very high up) decreed a state of stasis for one month before cremation.


(The Lord Buddha's cremation at Kusinara)


I’ve only been to two Isaan cremations, so my knowledge is a bit limited. The first one involved a well-respected family in the community where over 500 people and provincial government officials attended. The second one involved a relatively poor family whose house is within sight of ours. At least one hundred people attended that one. In both family cases – as with the ceremonies and gatherings leading to cremation – the format of the actual cremation ceremony was basically the same: Buddhist chanting lead by monks from the temple the family belonged to, followed by people walking up to the crematorium deck and throwing decorated sticks into the casket where the body was on view.

Both times, people left before the actual fires were lit and presumably, only close family members remained.

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