Friday, November 02, 2007

Funeral arrangements

I'm surprised how well my mother is handling my grandmother's (her mother) death. Naturally she was quite overcome with grief on the day she died but since then life has essentially returned to normal. All that is different the arranging of the funeral in a few weeks time - finding a place to have the funeral and findings clothes for the funeral. In a Christian-based society, one would normal have a service in a church and everyone would be dressed in black. In Hong Kong society, everybody is dressed in white with the clothes thrown away afterwards.

Some other traditions are not generally observed nowadays. In days gone by, the funeral would take place overnight with nobody allowed to leave the body of the deceased. Nowadays this custom has been consigned to history books. I'm sure the burning of paper effigies such as a house, car, money, etc. will still be adhered to since everybody likes to burn stuff.

I remember one of our psychiatry professors Dr. Jonathan Ko saying funeral arrangements are generally for the living and not for the dead. I find this mostly true. The dead won't know about your funeral arrangements and even if they did, I think they would be upset that so much time, effort and money would be spent on their funeral in such a melancholic way. For the living the funeral is their proper way to say goodbye. Societal views play a part in the equation, since nobody wants to hold a cheap funeral.

I already know what my funeral arrangements will be like. I know for sure I want my organs donated, no matter what my; family say and if they are in reasonable shape and fucntion. I would rather spend an eternity in hell rather than not help somebody have a new heart, liver or lungs. I want to be cremated in a cheap but at least presentable wooden box - it's going to be burnt so why waste money on something extravagant? Nobody can wear black at my funeral. I want people to remember the good times with me (if any) rather than be saddened at my loss. I remember watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation" when they hold a funeral for the supposedly dead Geordi LaForge (the chief engineer) and it was a celebration with food and music. That is what I want at my funeral - lots of booze and naked chicks (naked hunks for the ladies). I want half of my ashes thrown of the Palace Pier in Brighton (if that is possible) and the other half thrown over the Emirates Stadium. I find this ironic now, since I'm a hardcore Gooner but have never been to Highbury or Emirates and have only seen Arsenal play in the fresh at Wembley.

I don't know why people are afraid of death. Like the old saying goes, "The only certainties in life are death and taxes" (unless you live in Brunei where taxes are not a certainty). If I died today I wouldn't be disappointed. There are two reasons why people are afraid of death. Firstly is the pain associated. People are afraid of the pain more than the death itself. People always want to die in their sleep or without pain. Secondly is the completeness of life. People do not want to die without achieving anything or fulfilling the ambitions or goals.

In general people are not afraid of death itself but the associations and consequences.

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