Sunday, June 14, 2009


Like most doctors, I've had the opportunity to be present when someone bids their last farewell. Whether it's fortune - ill or not - I can't tell. A lucky few go gently into that good night while some rage against the dying of the light. The trite phrase 'I'm sorry for your loss' just doesn't cover it sometimes.

Apart from work, I've never seen death on its rounds before though I've had those I loved leave on that last sombre journey.

My late grandfather for one, though his remaining steps turned out to be far more a raucous celebration of his life with a large congregation of family and well-wishers sending their best on his final destination. Rather than the stereotypical send-off full of weepy sentiment, I think he would have appreciated this gesture far more. According to my grandmother, he always loved a good party.

The final send-off

Dutifully attended the funerals of two of my uncles as well - though I didn't know them as well.

In our culture, talk of death is usually taboo. And sometimes, the ones intimately involved with the ceremony themselves held as untouchable. Hence I had a friend who shamefully hid the fact that his family owned a funeral home for years before I stumbled on the enterprise. Why was I walking around funeral parlous then? Always been interested in the rites of funeral - and the ceremony associated with it - all to provide a balm to the mourning and grief of the ones who remain.

Is it any wonder that the contemplative Japanese have come up with a movie to celebrate just such a ceremony? A quiet, dignified film that marches slowly along aptly titled Departures おくりびと, Okuribito. Losing his job after the dissolution of his orchestra, a cellist returns to his village home to find work. Answering a classifieds ad looking for fellas to 'assisting departures', he goes for the interview thinking it is for a job at a travel agency. Only to find out later that it's an ad for a mortician.

Death certainly takes a pivotal role as our heroic protagonist finds himself reluctantly assisting the departures of those who've said their final goodbyes.

Oscar-winning? Frankly I'm not surprised since it even managed to wring a tear from me :)


Evann said...

I delivered a eulogy for my nanna during her 2-week memorial cuz I missed her funeral, and I was deeply touched by my own words. "I realize that even if we can't see her, she will always be with us. She will be in our hearts. For 2 weeks, our hearts have cried because she's gone. But today, let us smile because she has lived."

It may sound morbid, but I've already started planning parts of my own funeral. I believe that there's really nothing wrong with that cuz it's a celebration of my life and I want my presence to be felt in every flower, every song, and every poem. :)

Bradley Jesse Hyunckel said...

weird...i 1st attended a funeral was my grandmum last few months ago...i know this should be sad but no one is crying or mourn until the last day where we send her to cremation.we ate,laugh but not too loud,anything we did enjoy...they say grand doesnt want us to be sad...want us to be happy that she fulfil her care of her child

my dad say when his turn should we have party...such a party boy

the happy go lucky one said...

hmmm i hv slowly accepted the idea of talking abt death, and facing it, but its nvr something easy especially when they r someone u love the most.

Life for Beginners said...

I just read of my friend's grandfather passing away less than an hour ago, on his blog. I guess death is always around us, but we must not neglect to celebrate the life that has been lived and the lives that have been touched.

savante said...

Must have been a lovely eulogy. Always good to say that final farewell after all - and I do believe they do hear it somewhere, evann :)

She lived a good life no doubt, bradley. Certainly deserving of a celebration.

There must be grief of course, happy.

Totally agree, life. And we musn't forget to be with them while they lived.