Friday, May 6, 2011

My mother’s Death and ceremony

I thought I would never lose my mother so soon. She seemed to be better when I saw her in January. I planned to see her April 28th. According to my mother’s youngest sister who stayed her bed side until her death, my mother was looking forward seeing me and planned to stay alive. My mother fought against lung cancer as much as she could, but she was not able to make it. She passed away on April 23rd.
Her passed away about 1:30am. I caught an air plane from Seattle as quickly as possible and sat by my soulless mother’s side at 10:00pm on the same day. I wished I could have seen my mother alive. She was gone and only her small lifeless body lay in front of a small Buddhist altar. At least she looked very peaceful and pretty.
The next day many people came to see her. People viewed her peaceful face and touch her face. I heard young wives in the neighborhood came to see her, cried and said that my mother taught many things to them. My mother must have been very kind and helpful to her neighbors.
Two days after I had slept in the room next to where her body lay, we hold wake or Otsuya in Japanese. This is Japanese custom that people keep vigil all night by the body of the deceased before the funeral. My mother’s body was moved into the coffin and covered with bright white Kimono. The coffin was carried by the hand carriage to the specially made car which is to carry the coffin but not hearth. My father, my sister and me rode with my mother and got to the funeral hall around 3:00pm. The ceremony was held at 6:00pm. My mother’s friends and relatives came to attend the ceremony. Buddhist monk read a long sutra and people went front to close to alter which was decorated with flowers and offering and my mother’s photo, bowed, light a stick of incense and prayed. About 250 people attended the ceremony. After the ceremony, 6 of relatives including my father and I went to a room with my mother’ coffin. We took turn to stay by my mother’s body; 3 slept and 3 awake.
The next day, my sister and I were dressed up with black Kimono which our mother had prepared for this day. At noon the funeral was held. Buddhist monk read sutra. Each of attendants went front and bowed, offer incense and pray. At the end of the ceremony the coffin was open. We saw her face very last time and offer fresh flowers around her. She was surrounded by a lot of white and colorful flowers. I cried and cried for my mother. I could not stop crying. My sister who sat next me told me that I made her cry.
After the ceremony, my father and I rode her hearth to the crematory. Over 70 relatives and friends of my mother went to crematory to say the last good-by to her. Her living form was carried into the room to be burned. 2 hours later, the announcement told us that we are ready to collect her bones, In a large warm room, we gathered around my mother’s skeleton which was just burnt. An attendant directed my father and me to hold couple of large sticks at first and she passed each bone to us to pick up and put into the white container. We took turn to collect my mother’s most bones. The container was full and closed. The attendant wrapped the urn around white clothes. I carried it in my arms. It was still bit warm and very heavy although it was just bones without flesh. My father and I carry her urn home. In the evening, another monk came to the house to read sutra. Our relatives attended this last ritual of the long day.
7th day of her death another 7th day ritual was held at our parent’s home. Buddhist monk read sutra and made small talk about death. Our relatives attended and had vegan dinner together.
There would be every 7th day ritual until 47th day. Someone told me that the dead person would be still between living and dead during this period. After 49th day of the death, the person goes across the river between living and dead.

1 comment:

gilda92 said...

Fumiko: My sympathy to you and your family. I too have experienced the death of my mother, but many years ago. Your mother was a good mother and a good woman. The ceremony you describe is very moving and honours the dead person in a beautiful way. Thank you for writing about it so well. Gilda