18 September 2011
The funeral of a lady who taught me about the Dusun's death ritual
Rest in peace ginan Lucy Lotimboi. I attended her funeral yesterday. For the first time ever, I attended a Dusun funeral that was most peaceful. There was no mogihad (weeping ritual for the deceased) although it was obvious that her loved ones were crying quietly. I shed some tears myself. It's quite strange because I hadn't really known the lady for so long, but it must have been because I was remembering her kindness. She was my husband's aunt by marriage and I've been marriedto him for 15 years but I didn't get the chance to see that side of the family that often. But she had carved herself a place in my heart, mainly because of her kindness. Whenever we visited, she would make me feel at home. And a few months ago, she had been very kind to be willing to share with me her knowledge about some Dusun rituals- especially on death custom.
I looked at her peaceful face as I paid my last respect. Silently I thank her for everything and bade her good bye. For a few seconds, I got the sensation that she was smiling with joy as she said good bye to everyone. At the mass, the priest comforted her family members by saying that although it is inevitable that death brings grief, it should be looked at as a new life, almost a celebration that the deceased is now in heaven with her loved ones. He said that the deceased's last request to her family members, "don't cry for me" was indeed very wise. Send her off with 'joy' because she wouldn't want anyone she left behind to be sad.
Her funeral was so different from the Dusun funerals she described to me (and I've attended some like those she described too). Of course some traditions to do with death were still observed like 'not allowed to take green vegetables' because green signifies life, or that before the body was buried somebody has to keep vigil all the time, so people still play cards and drink the whole night long the night before. But there was no lingering feeling of doom like what I've experienced in some funerals before.
In the next few days till the seventh day, her family members would still observe certain traditions: no music, mongotomou (hanging green leaves outside of the house to ward off bad spirits), and on the seventh day there would be the popotongkiad (farewelling) ritual that would involve magauh (putting ash on a little plate so that when her soul is called to come over and take all her belongings, she could leave a little mark that means "I have come" on the plate of ash), and momisok (turning off light- that's when her sould would be called to come over). All these would be incorporated in the Catholic rites that she had embraced along with her family members.
Rest in peace ginan Lucy Lotimboi. You will be missed.