Stars in the Night Sky
/Ng Yi He,
Former intern at NV Care’s Grief Care & Ritual and Culture Management Department and a graduate from the Department of Chinese Language & Literature of New Era University College.
Even in the dark of night, there are still stars
When I was very young, whenever we passed by a house that had a funeral going on, my father would always warn me to avert my eyes and not look within out of curiosity, saying that it would offend the spirit of the deceased. As a result, I grew up with a respectful attitude towards funerals, although it was more out of fear than respect. Because of my overactive imagination, I would become extremely fearful every time the seventh lunar month came around; especially in a pitch-black room where I would constantly worry about something scary lurking in every corner or under the bed. So when it comes to matters relating to the supernatural, I would absolutely refrain from mentioning them during such “sensitive” times.
When I was in lower secondary school, about almost a year after my grandmother passed away, I could remember that I was no longer afraid of the seventh lunar month in that year. This was because my father told me that Grandma would protect us. Although I was somewhat skeptical at that time, I still felt a heightened sense of security at that thought. Upon careful consideration, the oft-mentioned “ghosts” are in fact someone’s loved ones. If they were kind and amiable during life, how can they become malevolent spirits after death? Thus, this notion helped me reconcile with the fear I had in my heart.
Only by bravely embracing the darkness can we see the starry sky.
Our hearts are like stars in the night sky, guiding us towards our goals
When we leave this world, where will we go? Despite the differences in beliefs, all religions share the same goal. They all aspire to journey to another “realm”; perhaps to start a new chapter, or to be rewarded for a lifetime of faith. However, it is an undeniable fact that the younger generation are becoming increasingly detached from religion. Therefore, what is the “afterlife” we have in mind? In my case, I really hope that my consciousness will remain after I have passed on, lingering on earth as what is commonly called a “soul”. We all have goals in life, and even in death, we hope to continue to perceive everything in the world. If possible, we would also hope to be the one who protects our heart’s interests from the beyond.
If death equals nothingness, it is probably difficult for people to accept such an outcome.
I once heard of a very romantic idea that after we pass away, we will become a star in the sky, becoming one among a sea of twinkling lights. We can always see our loved ones and friends in the night sky, so we won’t be alone. They twinkle with starlight, illuminating the night and also reassuring us that they are still with us and everything will be alright.
The stars in the night sky present such a lovely image. They are like our departed loved ones, who reside in our hearts just like the stars reside in the sky. Though we may always notice them in our daily lives, they are always there, both in the sky above and within us. Life is full of challenges. If we equate those challenges like the darkness of night, then our loved ones are like the stars that keep us warm and lift us up once more. We might miss them day and night, but if the stars next to the bright moon are them, perhaps we may be able to ease our sorrows this way.
The bereavement care industry: Navigational stars in the night sky
Each life is like a river, each unique in its one way. Some rivers have turbulent rapids while others flow steadily, but all eventually converge in the great ocean. When loved ones pass away and return to the ocean, do those left behind lose their way on the final journey?
I have always been a stranger to the bereavement care industry, thinking that I should not have much contact with it in my life. In fact, most people share this sentiment, and there are a lot of preconceptions concerning the bereavement care industry. Death is the end of life, a process that all of us will go through. Yet, we know so little about it. Isn’t this contradictory? In ancient times, religious leaders held high positions in society and oversaw all matters concerning life and death, most notably funeral rites. Today however, those associated with such industries such as funeral directors, are not well respected.
The Japanese film, “Departures” has a particularly interesting phrase to describe the bereavement care industry, which is “assisting departures”. I think this phrase is very apt – as life is a journey that consists of many trips. When one journey ends, another begins, and the bereavement care industry assists us to depart with dignity. I also believe that the bereavement care industry is like the stars in the night sky. When loved ones return to the ocean – and those left behind lose their way on the final journey – the stars in the night sky guide them every step of the way through the funeral ceremony.
The stars in the night sky are the most easily overlooked objects. If the bereavement care industry were to decline, and no one wanted to work in it anymore, where would we go? It would be like losing the stars in the night sky, leaving us lost in the ocean, endlessly drifting in circles without finding the right way. Rather than saying that those who work in the industry are witnesses to the graduation ceremony of life, it is more accurate to say that they are the planners of this ceremony. Without them we would lose our way and would not be able to complete our life’s graduation ceremony with dignity.
NV Care Grief Care & Ritual and Culture Management Department
NV Care Grief Care & Ritual and Culture Management Department conducts studies into the influence and development of Chinese culture on Malaysia society, focusing on the origins of social funeral culture, borrowing and adapting from ancient cultures; thus nurturing the evolution, cultivation in-depth penetration and expansion of Nirvana’s bereavement care services.
Ng Yi He is a former intern at NV Care’s Grief Care & Ritual and Culture Management Department and a graduate from the Department of Chinese Language & Literature of New Era University College. He is passionate about planning extracurricular activities and enjoys exploring interesting topics in his spare time and is full of imaginative ideas.
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Co-organiser: Nirvana Asia Group, Sin Chew Daily, New Era University College
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