08 March 2010

The Changing Society: farewell to a grandaunt

A grandaunt passed away last Sunday. I have only met her once in the 1980s in a very peculiar situation. It was during the funeral of her eldest son, and this particular grandaunt and my late grandmother were "conducting" the mourning ritual. The son died a Dusun with Dusun traditional beliefs. He was buried one.

I can't say it was a fond memory, because the mourning ritual shocked and scared the teenage me witless. All the whining and crying periods which were intermittent with jokes and drinking really confused me then. Now of course I understand that that was how it was supposed to be. That the mourners (often older people) have to say things like "oh why did you have to die before me? You have so much to live for, I should have died first", sob loudly, then take breaks to drink rice-wine and as they were drinking, they'd joke with others to lighten the sadness. (I know it is hard for most people to understand that).

When my father called to let me know the news, I heard in the background the Islamic rites for the dead being conducted. I asked him whether the grandaunt finally decided to have a religion, and Dad told me, yes, she converted to Islam last year or so. While I am happy for her to have found the true faith for her heart, I do find it interesting that she once conducted the mourning ritual for her son the traditional way, and now being farewelled in a different way. But all in all, I think she found her peace in Islam. May her soul rest in peace.

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