An Asian Departure

My mother passed away today.  She was 88. And in Viet-Nam.

Mom (in casket) in her own home.

I wept all day.  For a life that had suffered a lot. Through wars and strife and sorrow. But the ending was calm.

The death was expected.  I got the call on a few days earlier, notifying me that my mother was fading. I made long distance funeral plans with my relatives back there for cremation and subsequent plans.  So when she finally passed away today, it was not a severe trauma.  Everyone was prepared.

The way she passed away was dignified.  (For an idea of what I am talking about, rent the Japanese movie “Departures,” the 2009 Academy Award winner for best foreign film.) She died at her home.  She is lying at home, with everyone, kids and all, around.  My aunt, who stayed with her, and my aunt’s grown children and their kids, are there. Every day for three days, they will wash and cleanse her, preparing her for her trip to the next life.  No hospital, not even hospice.  Home, where the family is.  At home, while all other everyday activities happen around a dead body.  Americans nowadays may think it morbid, but it seems so dignified. (Yes, I urge you to watch “Departures.”) Then after three days, she will be cremated. When I return to Vietnam, I will then bring her ashes to the family burial ground we have in the country.

I wish a similar  experience could have been for everyone.

When Ruth was pronounced dead in ICU, the hospital allowed Sreymol and I only an hour to be with Ruth’s body before they were to take her to the morgue. We ended having two hours because the hospital had to wait on a decision from the coroner’s office on whether they would look at this death or not (since it was mysteriously sudden).  In the end, the body was cleared to go to the morgue, and we were asked to leave.  Sreymol was mortified that they were going to put Ruth in a “refrigerator,” as I explained to Sreymol in simple terms.  “Can’t we bring her home?” No, I said. “Won’t she be cold?”  No, I said, mom has already died so she won’t feel it.   I was stoic, but, in actuality, I felt the same way as Sreymol.

I wish Ruth could have had an “asian” departure.

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