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My Dear Aunt
It has been raining for the past seven days. Today the foggy, cold, and windy weather kept me in bed longer than usual. I could hear the wind beating against my window screen as if it was furious with the screen. I had just woken up from a haunting nightmare; I felt my heart pounding against my chest, while my sweat slowly streamed down my forehead.
“Sadie wake up! We’re leaving in thirty minutes!” my mother screamed from upstairs, which was how she usually woke me up. Her sudden yelling produced a headache upon me.
“Is that women crazy? Wait what time is it?” as I thought to myself.
When I looked at my alarm clock it flickered 8:39 am. I had intended to wake up at 6:00 am. Today was October 24, 2009, I didn’t expect today to be a cheerful happy day, because today was the day of my aunt’s funeral. My parents suggested I attend the funeral and pay my respects to my aunt. My parents were fine with me going to the funeral since I was old and mature enough to take in seeing death. This would be the first funeral I get to attend. Therefore the first dead body I get to see in my 14 years. I didn’t expect the first dead body I get to see would be my dear sweet aunt’s though. The thought never seeing her speak to me brought tears to my eyes.
Her name was See. My aunt was a phenomenal women, mother, grandma, aunt, sister, and friend. She found joy in giving and helping those in need. See lived a life with high integrity and an infallible work ethic. She showed unconditional love to friends and family, and she inspired those around her to reach for the stars and fulfill their own potential. If only I had cherished the family events spent with her more. I took her well being for granted, and now I’m stuck here wishing I should’ve cherished those moments.
In the Hmong tradition, when someone passes away, there is a funeral ritual that will be performed in order to make a safe passage for the soul to reach its ancestors. The ritual will consist of three days where animals are being sacrificed, such animals are chickens, pigs, and cows. Also certain tools are used to guide the soul of the deceased to their ancestors. An extravagant three-day ceremony is required in order to give the soul of the deceased full instructions for its journey to the world of the ancestors. By performing the ritual, the soul will be provided with the essentials such as: food, water, money and clothing for the long journey she will take. The Hmong believe that the soul must be provided with these essentials, so they can be well prepared for the afterlife. It is necessary for this ritual to be performed in order to create a path for the soul to take and to give the soul everything they need. Hmong funerals are one of the most expensive funerals of all cultures. The host of the funeral, generally the children of the deceased will provide lunch and dinner for all the guest during all the days of the funeral.
Nearly two hours later, I found myself on the parking lot, walking up to the funeral home with my parents. Since this was the first time I had the privilege to attend a funeral, I had not known of any of the Hmong traditions.
“Mom, why is dad carrying that little basket filled with a boiled whole chicken, rice, and alcohol?” My mom responded “It’s a Hmong tradition; we have to give food and money to your aunts relatives for helping with the funeral.”
The second I walked into the funeral room I felt the sorrowful, gloomy atmosphere that was given off by sounds of people crying, pounding sounds of drums, and a man playing a qeej (a Hmong instrument). The whole view of my aunt’s casket in the center of the room brought forth a feeling of intimidation in my heart. All the golden decorative joss art, a form of spiritual money for the deceased spirit to take to another world, was all around the casket and walls of the funeral room. I was hesitant of this new experience, so I followed my mother to the front of the room, where my aunt’s casket was surrounded by sobbing women. I was scared to see my aunt, because the sight of death didn’t amuse me. The sight of death made me cringed, made me cried, and made me felt emotionless.
Unexpected of what death would look, my aunt looked very beautiful, as she always did. The mortician who had applied makeup on her put a lot of cover up on her face. From the plastic covering of the casket, she looked like a sleeping Barbie. Her hair was perfectly combed, with a sparkly jeweled clip on the side of her head, she wore a shade of pink lipstick color, and she was fitted in a beautiful clear white robe. Staring at my aunt made me cried; being around adults crying made me cried. I had an experience to see male relatives who I have never imagined crying. This whole funeral atmosphere made me cried.
After I recovered from crying, I found a chair that was still available next to my mother. I sat emotionless, I felt like my sadness had overpowered me to not even talk. As I sat I thought about how short life was. I thought about how random life was, how someone can be alive one day and then die the next. My aunt had no doctor’s warning nor a diagnosis but in one blink of an eye she was gone. In my head, I thought to myself silently about how this first death in my paternal family had affected me. My first experience of going to a funeral changed my perspective on life.
“Life is precious.
That’s why I have to enjoy, appreciate, and love all of those around me.
I will tell my family and close friends I love them occasionally.
I will let happiness overcome me, and always wear a smile on my face.
I will be up to take risks, but I will be mindful to only take careful risks.
I will drive to live my life to the fullest.”