Thursday, November 02, 2006

Celebration of life

'Twas the first of November
when all through the land
cemeteries were buzzing
All Saints Day was at hand
(jeez, don't shoot me...I haven't had much sleep!)

People flock en masse to the cemeteries. A number of them go there on October 31st and stay until as late as November 2. Hence the tents. They also bring sleeping bags and other paraphernalia. Food is in abundance. But no alcohol! Drinking and gambling (among other things) are prohibited.

Of course, people gotta eat! Even though most visitors bring food, both for self-consumption and for sharing, you can't blame the fast food companies for setting up shop in the cemeteries. The earnings potential is there after all. And it seemed like some of them weren't doing too badly. Also, I actually saw a guy who was offering to do henna tattoos! I didn't have my camera with me at the time, though--so no picture. And I couldn't find him afterwards even though I really tried. I walked around quite a bit. It's quite a large cemetery...I still get lost sometimes even after all these years.

One of the mini-mausoleums tickled my fancy. The relatives of the deceased are obviously a fun-loving bunch--decorating their part of the place with Halloweeny-colored balloons!

I thought this was lovely. I was walking around and came upon it. Orchid petals strewn about the grave. How poignant, how sad.

In the 17 years we've been going to this place, today was the first time that I came across this pond. It was a welcome sight for eyes burned by tents and hawkers, and a much-needed respite for my tired feet. I was glad for the solitude, the chance to reflect a little. Which I would've accomplished, if only a damn freaking frog didn't choose just that moment to come hopping out of nowhere and scare the bejeezus out of me!

My cousin's tombstone. He was five years old. His grave is right next to my dad's. I had to redact my cousin's name...I haven't had the chance to get his parent's permission to post this, so better safe than sorry.

I used to think about what epitaph I'd like, but since I'm leaning towards cremation, I guess I wouldn't need one, huh? But the thought of a death poem, like the ones that the samurai in medieval Japan used to make before going to battle, is lovely. For the samurai, death was a noble and honorable thing.

Here's an example of a 16th-century samurai death poem:

Both the victor
and the vanquished are
but drops of dew,
but bolts of lightning -
thus should we view the world

James Clavell is one author whose historical fiction novels I've enjoyed greatly over the years. Among all his books, my favorites are Shogun, Gaijin and Tai Pan. The following is a death poem taken from Shogun:

What are the clouds
But an excuse for the sky?
What is life
But an escape from death?

Short, effective, apt. And I'm not being morbid, okay?


Matt-Man said...

Not morbid at all, nice post.

"I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather... Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.”

--Will Shriner

Aisby said...

I have an odd fascination with cemeteries...this one seems beautiful.

What's up with the no drinking and gambling...I'd prefer alcohol and cards in the graveyard to fast food establishments.

Lizza said...

Matt: Haha, what a great quote. :-D

aisby: Well, people tend to get too rambunctious when drunk. The ban on alcohol and gambling is a precaution against fights, etc. It is a beautiful cemetery...lots of trees.

Wendz said...

Wow they go even more into it there than in France.

Death has never been a big issue in my family. So it's hard to grasp this paying of respects and remembrance. I guess I just think of my special 'gone' people often anyway.

Matt-man has great quotes!

NanNan said...

What a beautiful place -- since my son died I have come to realize the import of having a "place" on earth to remember- and pray- not that i ever forget-- but there is a measure of comfort in tending a grave and paying tribute--- this seems such a tranquil place, and thanks for sharing your experience and traditions--

Anonymous said...

Awww! You're making me miss All Saints' Day. I miss our family reunion of sorts in my aunt's and grandparents' mausoleom in the province. Love the poem excerpts too. My favorite poem is Christina Georgina Rosetti's "Song" (which always freak my mother a lot) so I don't think you're morbid at all.


houseband00 said...

I always found it to have lost its purpose. =(

Sir Dirty Joke said...

Thanks for the shit you sent me babe! Check out my post shortly! Have a dirty night!

mist1 said...

Wait, can we go back to that whole no drinking part?

That's why I'm not in any of the pictures that you posted.

Lizza said...

wendz: Yep, it's a big thing here. I'm glad death isn't a big issue in your family. And yes, Matt sure is great with quotes!

nannan: You're welcome. I've seen the pictures you've posted of where Chris is buried. It looks like a tranquil spot too.

GG: Hey! Oh, that's right. I remember your stories of out-of-town get-togethers. Uwi na kasi! :-)

HB: True for most, sadly.

Sir DJ: You nut. :-) I didn't send you anything, my crazy pal.

mist1: You wouldn't survive a minute! :-D

zeroimpact said...

It's something new to me... with all the things they have there and even fast food.
It's so different and a poem would be nice...

Odat said...

I think yours is a beautiful honor the dead with your presence.....(the fast food thing just destroys the picture I had in my mind)lol.

H said...

Not a morbid post... in fact a rather gentle.

Really appreciated the one with orchids. very beautiful. simple yet effective expression of love.

And yes, it is a very lovely place.

Lizza said...

ZI: Thank you. I guess it is a nice that I've taken for granted, though.

odat: Haha! Well, the fast food booths are assigned to just one area in this particular graveyard, so they don't clutter up the place.

H: Somehow I'm not surprised that you like that picture. ;-)

lastlifeinmyuniverse said...

your cousin passed away the same year i was born. :(

and i like your poems. serious. i cant write one to save my life.

Lizza said...

Thanks, Debs. These ones aren't mine though.

My drawing skills are nonexistent--yours are superb!


Nice tradition. I was surprised by the very commercialized food vendors though! But like you said, people do have to eat.

R2K said...

: )

Gumby said...

I'm being cremated as well. But if I DID have an epitaph, I'd think I'd want a blonde joke.

Lizza said...

parlancheq: Yes, business is quite brisk for them on those days.

r2k: :-)

gumby: Haha! But there are lots of blonde jokes. I wonder which one you'd choose.