I was once again paying my last respects to a man I knew only by name, but said to be a gentlemen, a respectable man in society and one who had earned a good respect in the eyes of his pupils.
By Shanika Pitigala
Sitting next to me was another teacher, quite old but not older than the one who had died due to a terminal illness. This woman still walks swiftly and completes her tasks with fewer burdens to others. She does her duty by society in nurturing and moulding many professionals to society.
These are the kind of women that teach us lessons every day and night if left in their company. It is always worthy to talk to an old woman or a man who might tell you things you had hardly dreamed of.
I sat discussing funeral thoughts. The contrast in the two of us was that she has lived her life to the full whereas I had not. She is now awaiting the end whereas I am waiting for a beginning, but then she reveals her inner thoughts. We discuss funeral rites.
At a funeral many things are discussed. At every corner of the house or parlour you would see people engaged in such talks. Some speculate about the death of the person, others about the reaction of family members.
Amid all such talks, we arrive at conclusions. Some people said it is a hazard to visit a funeral. Others said it is painful to see the dead. It is said that the first impression lasts long, but at a funeral you get the last impression of the dead.
We remember the dead person lying in the coffin. That is what the woman who was sitting next to me said. It is the truth. Something similar was said by someone else who had not brought her husband's coffin home, but left it at a parlour amid various allegations from relations and neighbours.
She said she did not want to live the rest of her life with the sad memories of her husband and to remember the face of her life partner. "I have happy memories of him. I don't weep remembering his dead body in the middle of the house, but relive the happy moments." Every day I recall the death of my father. However, my sisters never saw my father struggling for his last breath.
Then she said, "I told my children to finish my funeral rites on the very day I die and publish the obituary." When I pressed her for an explanation she said, " I don't want my students to remember my dead face. I want them to remember me as I am, happy and bubbly as I was.
I want them to remember me as their teacher, and besides it also saves my family the trouble of entertaining so many people at my funeral. The obituary notice is for them to know that I had passed away gracefully and peacefully."
It is true that we need not have a song and dance about a person's death, but the dead person should be remembered for their services.
The last will of a person who had passed away is something important. My grandfather had donated his eyes. My mother said his eyes would have given sight to someone else. I am sure that his soul is at peace.
My grandmother, on the other hand, asked us to play music at her funeral.
That was something we found hard to fulfil. My mother always objected saying, "What will the people say?" The situation is very complicated and there could be many such requests from people to be performed at their funeral. I see no objections to fulfilling their wishes. It is their wish and why should we object.
Let the kith and kin decide what to do at a funeral. Funerals give us lessons for life such as impermanence of life. Whether you are young or old, you should be conscious of your death.