My late mom’s first Ching Ming (Tomb Sweeping Day)

Arranging Flowers

I was holding the nice arrangement of flowers awkwardly as we loaded the car, before deciding to put it on someone’s lap instead of inside the boot. We were headed for my mom’s burial ground (technically it’s a tomb since it’s aboveground) to pay our respects during the Chinese festival of Ching Ming (similar to All Saints Day).

Mom Ching Ming

It was then that my aunt told us we’ll be better off getting a new mop since having it makes it easier to clean those really hard-to-reach nooks and crannies so we all packed into the car (my sister came back with her husband in tow) and I drove to a nearby grocery store to pick out an appropriate one. I was quite surprised to find them retailing for RM 17.50 each!

Buying Mop

I guess it’s a temporary price increase, just like flowers, to rake (mop?) in the profits during Ching Ming.

Methodist Cemetery Sibu

The actual date is next week on the 5th of April, which happens to be my birthday, but our family has always done it one week in advance, as most people do nowadays since the day itself is really packed with people and it can take hours just to *reach* the burial grounds. It was also close to the exact date when my mom was called home last year.

Cleaning Tomb

My mom was laid to rest almost exactly 1 year ago after her battle with lung cancer at a Methodist cemetery.

Wiping Moms Face

I helped clean the tombstone (said I was wiping mom’s face, to a few quiet twitters) and everyone pitched in as well. The mop turned out to be an AWESOME idea as it allowed us to clean the top and sides easily.

Singing Hymns

These new tombs are meant to be easy-to-clean – unlike my late grandfather’s where you have to pluck grass growing in the cracks. The hardest thing I had to do was to borrow a bucket of water from a nearby construction crew, which they were happy to give, knowing what we were there for.

Flowers Mom

My sister had printed out Amazing Grace and another hymn from the United Methodist Hymnal (my mom loved to sing during church on Sundays) and the entire family sang both before my dad lead us in prayer. He gave a very touching dedication and I could see how so many decades of marriage has cemented these two lives together, making the parting hard even after one year and my heart went out to my dad.

Late Family Portrait

Goodbye mom. You are still missed.

My mom’s funeral

bagpipes

My mom passed on about two weeks ago and the funeral started at our home in Sibu followed by a service in Wesley Methodist Church with a bagpipe band before laying her to rest at Methodist Grace Memorial Park Cemetery.

moving casket

These are the photos from that day. We didn’t think about having a photographer around but one of my aunties kindly arranged to have her friend take the pictures and handed them to us.

home service

My better half flew back to Sibu too, it’s fortunate that my late mom has met her before and I’m glad she managed to take the time to come back. My sister and brother-in-law and my nieces and nephews are all here too – the family is all dressed in white.

home funeral

We don’t wear black for mourning unlike Western funerals, the immediate family is usually dressed in white for Chinese funerals.

coffin van

I went with my dad to accompany my mom’s casket on the van to the church.

church service

There was an hour-long service which a lot of her friends attended and me and my sister gave a speech.

movie

I also made a short movie to commemorate my mom that was screened at the church service.

moving coffin

The coffin was then carried to Methodist Grace Memorial Park to be buried (technically, no caskets are “buried” anymore – they’re double sealed in concrete)…

speach

…and we paid our last respects before coming back again 3 days later. I’m not sure if this is a Chinese custom or a Christian one though.

funeral service

I’m back in KL now after shuttling between here and KL and Singapore, doing the documentation for my mom’s sudden passing. She has been fighting cancer for a long time and a sudden deterioration made her unable to undergo her radiotherapy sessions, and relying on chemotherapy alone didn’t really help as she rapidly went from wheelchair-bound to bed-ridden to oxygen dependent.

wesley

Thanks again for all the thousands of people who came to visit and the others who send messages of condolences and funeral wreaths and food and other shows of support. It is much appreciated, all your kindness, during a difficult time.

coffin church

We will miss you mom. We hope you lay at peace knowing you have raised us well and we’ll do the best we can and be there for each other and dad until we meet again.

called home

Goodbye, mom.

(Called home 6th March 2014)

Dishes of Death: Cultural food for funerals

crispy floss sandwich

My late mom is Foochow while my dad is Henghua and they both have different cultural traditions for food after a death in the family. We’ve just done the 3rd day ceremony where we sweep the cemetery grounds and bring her photo back. It’s customary to eat together after this and the two different cultures have different dishes that you’re supposed to eat.

1. Chicken mee sua with red wine and boiled-fried egg

henghua noodles

This is a Henghua tradition. You’re supposed to eat longevity noodles cooked with chicken stock (real, not from a cube or bottle) and served with pieces of chicken and an egg that’s been boiled before battered and then deep fried.

There’s also locally fermented red rice wine used for cooking in this dish. The dish above replaces the mee sua with hung ang noodles (see below).

2. Fried thick beehoon with boiled-fried egg

foochow noodles

This is a Foochow tradition and we originally wanted to follow this custom since my mom is Foochow. The fried thick beehoon is known as “hung ang” over here – it’s best described as a cross between mee hoon and lou shi fan.

Unfortunately, we drove to three (3) different places and all of them were *closed* so we settled on eating just whatever we wanted, since my dad is Christian and doesn’t follow all these pantang (superstitious beliefs) anyway.

The picture above is a type of Foochow style fried noodles – the next best thing, which most people had.

3. Pork leg longevity noodles

pork leg noodles

I had this with one of my uncles. It’s stewed pork leg cooked with a specific combination of herbs and spices called pek ting yok (usually translated as 8 treasures herb). It’s RM 7 and I found it to be quite good and it fulfils the Henghua tradition of eating longevity noodles after a death and the subsequent visit to the family.

pork mee sua

My grandma was so worried that we didn’t eat this (she’s of the older generation) and cooked dry longevity noodles tossed in lard for us at night!

rojak tambi

As for us, since we don’t really follow tradition, you can even eat rojak tambi if you want. I just thought it was interesting, all the cultural believes surrounding death and I never got a proper explanation on why we eat a certain dish and not another. However, as in all cultures, the consumption of food after a funeral is the norm.

tambi rojak

I did a quick search and found out that the reason we eat after a funeral is to celebrate the life of the deceased…

death dishes

…and we’ve been doing it as far back as 12,000 years (!!!) since the Natufian people in the Stone Age!

My mom’s wake

mom wake

We’ve been quite busy getting all the stuff sorted out for my late mom – we’re heading to the cemetery in a couple of hours for another ritual. My dad practically stayed up for almost two days without sleep when he flew with my mom’s body from Singapore to Sibu.

mom vigil

My better half also came back with me for the wake (which is *different* from a funeral viewing here, the latter is done just before the coffin is buried and the casket is open instead of closed) and all of my relatives came over. A bunch of my friends turned up too, while I was sleeping in the afternoon, so I was a bit groggy when I talked to them – thanks for coming.

food

My uncles and aunties stayed up the entire night too but mostly we took turns to keep vigil over my mom’s casket throughout the two days she was here. We’re lucky to have all the help to meet and greet people – there were a couple of tables at our car porch that a restaurant provided so lunch and dinner can be served to everyone staying over. I was surprised to find out that it’s common practice for them to read the obituaries and offer their catering services.

cross wreath

There’s still a lot of things that require sorting out, so I’ll be updating intermittently and staying here until at least the weekend.

Thank you all for all the condolence messages, funeral wreaths, food and support.

My mom just died

last office

My mom has passed on peacefully at Changi Hospital Isolation Ward 2 at 2:14 pm Singapore time just now. It’s a blessing that all of us were with her when she took her last breath. I’ve been in Singapore for a couple of days now and there’s a lot of procedures involving embalming and death certificates and what not over here.

I just came back from the hospital, she has been struggling a lot with the pain last night and it was heartbreaking to see the blight that end stage cancer brings.

My mom has been real strong though, she has been fighting lung cancer since 2010 when she went for the initial operation in Auckland.

entombing service

We will all be flying back to Sibu with my mom’s body on Saturday night – if anyone wants to pay their last respects, the coffin will be at our home in Sibu for at least one (1) day before funeral proceedings on Monday.

The Christian service will be tomorrow morning at Singapore.

Thank you all for your well wishes and condolences.

You’ll be sorely missed by all of us, mom. I know you’re in a better place now.