27 August 2010

Daffodil Day (and burial customs)

Daffodils in our garden

Hmmm... I'm not exactly sure if those are daffodils that have appeared in our garden but one thing's sure: it heralds the inevitable demise of winter.  Incidentally, today is also Daffodil Day.  These flowers are among the first to be in bloom and are therefore significant indicators in the changing of the season.  This day also coincides with the Cancer Society's awareness and fundraising program and can be said as one of the more important activities in this country.  Incidentally, the Cancer Society's logo is also that of a daffodil as a symbol of hope.

This day reminded me of a friend who succumbed to lung cancer recently.  We were only casual acquaintances but she had a good heart.  We arrived here in New Zealand at nearly the same time, so it's really a surprise when she learned she had stage 4 cancer and that she only had months to live.  We were planning to visit her at the hospital when we learned she had passed away.  It was all so sudden.  We went to her wake and a lot of things also came to our mind, things that we usually do not think about.  Like our mortality.  What if something happened to us here...  are we going to be buried here or are we going to be flown back to our motherland?

As this was my first time to attend a funeral here, I was culture-shocked so to speak.  In our country we have a lot of supersitions and customs surrounding the death of a loved one such as:
- the family not taking a bath during the wake
- putting a shroud over all the mirrors because we might see the dead in the reflection and is a bad omen
- having family stay by the dead throughout the duration of the wake (not sure if there is a superstition here but this is practiced)
- and there's lots more.

I immediately saw a difference when we arrived at the wake.  There were no flowers and bouquets.  The casket was open.  And there was a time limit that guests and even family can stay there.  That Friday night, we were allowed to stay only til 9.  The following day, the room was opened to guests only between 2:30 - 6:00.  Everyone - even family - are not allowed to stay.  Coming from a place where the dead is not left all alone, we cannot fully grasp the concept of leaving the dead in that room and the family not being able to be there for as long as they want to.

I digress.

Daffodil Day is met with much fanfare. Yellow balloons on signposts and streetlamps, people with yellow vests on strategic areas ready to receive donations, people bustling about with fabric daffodils pinned to their coats. It's a mixed emotion for me.  I couldn't help but feel sad as I remembered our friend and her family, and the others who may be suffering this very moment because of cancer.  It really does affect you differently if it happens on a personal level.  But on that note, I also salute the people working behind this activity to give cancer patients hope.
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