“Okay, when I get home, I’m going through all of my own stuff,” exclaimed Aunty Sida. “My poor kids! If I don’t start now, they’ll be doing the same thing we are doing right now after I’m dead!”
Folks, the aunties and me had been going through mom’s stuff for about 6 hours today, including lunch break. Pueng had brought down most of mom’s clothes to the living room. We all spot her favorite outfits and marveled at all the other pieces she had collected–some of them haven’t even been worn yet! The piles threaten to drown us a few times.
This is when it really hits you that you’re not taking anything with you when you die. And that if you have a lot of stuff, think about those who left behind a little bit. Just a wee little bit! 🙂
Aunty Sida was in charge of sorting through the jewelry, separating between costume cheapies and the real deal. Aunty Jim tried to seek out a few things in the pile but ended up with a few items and the duty of hand bag sorting. Aunty Ray, who wears the same size as my mom, went through what she could put her hands on and picked out a garbage bag full of stuff.
If I can find a picture from the blessing ceremony at my brother’s wedding, you’d see my mom in this beautiful Thai silk yellow dress. As it turned out, that wasn’t hers. It was Aunty Ray’s! What happened was that in the mad dash to get to the wedding, mom had left her Thai silk dress to wear for the ceremony at home. She only brought the evening dress for the reception and the casual dress she had on. Aunty Ray, ever the good sport, ran mom back up to the hotel room and switched to wear her western dress so mom could have her Thai dress.
“Mother of the groom wearing the same outfit for the ceremony and the reception? Over my gimpy fat body!” she said.
As for me, once I was done shuttling some stuff down from my parents’ bedroom, I went through 1 regular drawer and 1 filing draw packed to the brim with her papers.
And oh my god how my mom could keep her papers! Holy hell. I mean, she kept EVERYTHING. And yet, in no particular order. Well, I think there was an order until that drawer was full then she started plopping things in another drawer. I found all three of our studying abroad files, completed with some grades, expense records in different sheets of scrap papers, and correspondence. (Onk’s letters were totally entertaining, by the way. Mine were always packed margin to margin.)
I found a letter from dad to mom in 1968, begging her to come to Oregon early. The man started off pouty.
“The reasons you gave me as to why you couldn’t leave earlier are not really the reasons. Are those things more important to you than being with me? Do I not matter to you that much?”
And, boy can my dad sprinkled on some sugar at the end.
“I can’t live like this alone, without you by my side!”
Smooth operator, my dad.
As all of us went through mom’s things, there would be an occasional sniffle from one corner of the room. Aunty Ray picked up my mom’s favorite outfit. She cried. Aunty Sida found the jewelry they bought together. She cried. I found some documents. I cried.
Oh, I forgot to mention that there will be part two of this with Aunty Jitt coming over tomorrow. I will help in the morning and be gone by lunch time to join my brothers and dad in visiting a friend of the family who catered the entire funeral for us for free. Also, dinner with my girls tomorrow night. It should be fun. I hope I can get a few drinks in.
Brandon, baby–I will not be putting away my files when I get home for another month. I’m sure you’d understand. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to see ANY paperwork if I can help it for a month. Heh. 😉
“Mom was in my dream last night,” Onk said over lunch with the aunties. “She was sitting at a bus stop. I drove by and I had to do a double take: ‘Wait a sec. That was mom!'”
Aunty Sida said, “Oh yeah, that is totally a dream. Noi NEVER took the bus.”
For superstitious Thais, there is a difference between seeing someone in your dream and having them visiting you in your dream. Different groups believe in different ways the dead pay a visit.
According to true Buddhist belief, mom should go straight to wherever she would be, in the heavens, waiting to be reborn. But some Thais believe the spirit comes back to visit the family on the third night. Some said at the day of the cremation. And some said after the remains are scattered.
The aunties asked us if mom came to us that morning when she passed away. One said she woke up around that time just thinking about my mom long before the other aunty called her. One said that she kept teasing mom about not giving her a smile in the last few days and mom came to her that morning in a dream and said, “Here I am! I’m smiling now!”
The rest of the time, we think mom is already up on the heavens, watching over us, dropping little hints here and there that she’s there.
On the day of the cremation ceremony, it was stifling hot. I mean, I looked and felt like I had just came out of the pool and put my clothes on. Although during our procession around the crematorium, the sun was covered by clouds. Sure, the cloud and the stifling heat were signs of the rain to come. But rain was so far away.
Oddly enough, once the guests start to arrive, a cool breeze picked up and it began to sprinkle, light enough that you wouldn’t get wet, but heavy enough to cool off the entire area, making the evening pleasant. By the time we were ready to have honored guests up on the crematorium to begin the ceremony, the rain stopped completely so nobody got wet going from the seating area.
Oh, and did I mention that the parting gifts were umbrellas?
It was speculated of course that my mom, ever the Hostess with the Most-est, was making sure everyone was comfortable through the ordeal by working with the weather gods.
Also, mom was never the sun-and-sea kind of person. She was sensitive to the sun and couldn’t swim. And, like mother like daughter, she got motion sick easily too. Since we’re smack dab in the middle of monsoon season, we braced for choppy waters where we were going to scatter her ashes. But nope. The sea was calm. Sky blue. Beautiful day at the beach.
Mom was a scaredy cat. She was afraid of the water (because she couldn’t swim), the geckos (see?), blood, scary movies, action movies, people getting hurt, cockroaches, driving, computers, cats, big dogs, you name it! I believe that she hasn’t come to “visit” us because she didn’t want to scare us. Onk believes that with mom being afraid of ghosts, she is probably scared of herself.
But I think she may have visited me early this morning. The aunties seemed to think so.
I woke up at 5 till 4 a.m. with a start. I felt the bed shook…well…more like a low rumble, the way a low level earthquake feels. I started to think that I was dreaming and besides, if it was an earthquake, I should probably get to the door jamb. I went to open the door, stood underneath it and held the frame. It rumbled there too. But it could be my A/C doing the vibrating, so I touched the floor outside the bedroom, and that was rumbling. I didn’t hear any truck or anything outside. I stood there for a few more moments and everything stopped.
I went back to bed and turned on the TV perhaps to catch the news about a big quake somewhere else that could’ve shaken Bangkok like what happened a few months ago. Nothing on CNN or BBC. Local news wasn’t really breaking news but a guy going over today’s newspapers. (Yeah, I know. There are a lot of those “news” shows in the morning here.) After another half hour or so, I went back to sleep.
I asked if anyone else felt the earthquake last night. Onk, of all people, should have felt it because his room is on the 4th floor mezzanine. Nope. Nothing. Both he and dad said if there was an earthquake, it would’ve been on the news.
I checked the US geological survey against the one in the UK and the closest quake was in the far end of Indonesia. No way would I have felt that here.
The aunties conclude that it was mom visiting me. Onk and dad think I sleepwalked. I still think it was a mild earthquake that may not have registered on the scale. I just happened to be awake at the right moment.
Or something like that.