Death brings people together.
I went home to NY because my youngest Uncle passed away unexpectedly. He had a heart attack and was not able to wake up from it. He lived with my family when I was growing up and spoiled us because he did not have kids of his own. I remembered we bought these puppies together but then had to return them after a week because they were too much to take care of.
I have not seen him in a few years and I feel sad about it. The last time I saw him was at my cousin’s wedding in Philly. How strange to think that day would be the last day I would ever see him.
Our entire family on my dad’s side all came to NY. We were happy and sad to see each other. It made me realize how far away I live. When I found out, I felt powerless. I couldn’t be there for my dad or anyone. Though I guess I am lucky that I can make an impromptu trip like this to be with my family.
The funeral was funny. I know that’s strange to say but it was. At night we were laughing so hard thinking about what happened. It was a Buddhist ceremony that was elaborate, confusing, and totally disorganized. We brought three cups of rice, three plates of food and tea but then found out that we needed candles, rice and salt, fruit, and a picture of Buddha. Apparently, no one in my family realized this until we got to the funeral home. We started an hour and a half late because people were running around trying to get all of this together.
All the nieces and nephews had to kneel in the front for the whole ceremony (about an hour). No one prepared us for this. I was wearing ankle boots that was cutting off my circulation. At one point, I was silently panicking because I couldn’t feel my feet. And the Buddhist monks were chanting in Vietnamese so I didn’t understand everything they were saying. About 40 minutes in we had to stand up and my one cousin fell over because his legs were asleep.
At the cemetery, we had to burn things that would bring my Uncle good luck in a tin can. Later, my aunts and uncles said they needed to get a rooster. We got a rooster for my grandfather’s funeral from Chinatown apparently but I did not remember this because I was so young. A rooster has to be walked around the grave three times and then let go. All the cousins were freaking out.
“What do you mean let go?”
“You just let the rooster go.”
“How do you let it go?”
“You just leave it.”
This is not Vietnam! I feel like there must be a law against setting roosters free in a cemetery. I can just imagine the news headline: Loose rooster in cemetery reeks havoc on gravestones and eats a visiting baby. Or something like that.
In the end, they decided to not get a rooster. I don’t even know where the Vietnamese black market is so it was good that we didn’t have to go get one.
And even though the circumstances that brought us together was a sad one, I had a good time at home. I love my family and it took me a long time to realize how lucky I am to have them.
Thank you Cau Dung for helping raise me. Rest peacefully.