Samantha Ho, Nirvana Care
Translated by: Colin Kuan
With changing times, children nowadays are able to expertly shoot videos with their cell phones, and most the older generation are also able to make good use of the built-in camera to take pictures and send them on online chat groups to share their joy.
Some time ago, I went back to my mother’s house and inadvertently stumbled on an old photo album. When I leafed through it, I felt as if I had revisited my own past through the photos. I was thinking how precious each photo was in the old days when we didn’t have a cell phone camera. If I remembered correctly, the old-school Kodak photography film could take about 36 photos. After shooting, you would want to take it to the photo studio immediately to be developed. It also took several days, and each time you get back the results of those photo moments is full of anticipation.
This reminded me of the time when my mother asked, “Your baby can crawl, is it not time to take him to the photo studio to have his picture taken?”
At that time, I was thinking I already have plenty of photos in my phone’s album. Before I had the chance to respond, my mother pointed at the individual baby photos (of us four siblings) hanging on the wall. I realised that what my mother was referring to was the traditional studio photo shoots of the old days, where a red cloth was laid on a table against a blue backdrop with just one change of clothes. The baby was simply told to get down, guided to look at the camera and the shutter just clicked away! Thus, the result was the cute baby photo. The first time a child lifts his or her head, the first crawl, and the first time he or she stands up, are all precious moments in the eyes of parents. Each milestone of progress and growth are wonderful moments every parent would want recorded by way of photographs.
Our brains can only remember a very limited number of things, so we preserve memories – whether happy and unhappy – through photos. I once conducted a case, and after the service, a family member asked, “Can we take a picture in front of the funeral parlour?”
“Of course you can!” I replied.
The family member further divulged that they did not have the opportunity to have a family portrait taken when their father was still around, and this was the first and last time they would take a family portrait with him. Upon hearing that, my nose had a case of the sniffles and my heart felt a little heavy; because I myself did not have the opportunity to have a family portrait taken with my father.
I believe that every experience or feeling brought on by the memorial service is guiding and leading me on a journey of personal growth. After that day, I came home to play videos and look at photographs of my late father’s funeral ceremony. All at once, the memories came flooding back to me. I’m sure many family members have felt the same way as I did. After a loved one passes, we don’t want to look through a photo album containing pictures of the departed or dare play a voice recording left by the said person – even when we miss him or her – because we know that once we hear that familiar voice, we will feel sad and may even want to flee from our grief.
On another occasion, a family member told me that he hoped that his mother’s funeral service would not have a gloomy atmosphere, and that it would be better instead for it to be warm and cosy. In the midst of it, we also managed to communicate and he said something that impressed me:
“We will still miss Mum in the future, and we will open Mum’s albums and recall her voice whenever we have time,” he said, “Because this is the greatest connection we have to her.”
As I listened to him, my heart wanted to thank this person because he reminded me that whenever I think of my late father and get sad, I am also connecting with him in heaven.
The photographs record our memorable moments and leave precious memories for numerous families who miss their loved ones.
About the author
Samantha Ho of Nirvana Care’s Ritual and Culture Management Department is passionate about funeral practices, treating people with sincerity and serving families as if they were her own. She is a resourceful member of the team, has a big heart, and loves to share delicious food with others. Samantha is fluent in Mandarin and English languages, as well as the Cantonese and Hakka dialects.
Every ritual at a funeral is a way to accept the fact that we have lost a loved one, and the loss of a loved one is an unavoidable life experience for everyone and it is also a process.
In some cultures, death is a taboo topic.
What’s more, to talk about death and money in the same conversation would raise suspicion of greed and distrust.
This is a common question heard in the counseling room.
“I’ve never done anything bad in my life, why did such an unfortunate thing happen to me?”
“He was a good man – always doing good things – why did God take him away so quickly and take away the bad people?”
“Do we have to be bad people to live longer and get better rewards?”
I believe that many caregivers, and not just those in my family, share the same experience and feelings. The truth cannot be spoken freely, lest you will be accused of being unfilial if you are not careful.
As soon as she finished speaking, she handed the microphone to me. I didn’t have time to respond at that time and everyone started to prepare for the casket sealing ceremony.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is coming, are you going home too? How are you spending your Mid-Autumn Festival?
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