Monday, April 2, 2007


Left is a photo from Thai World View of a Buddhist funeral.
Well no one wants to talk about it or admit when they think about it, but a series of events recently has brought to mind the reality of death. I am not a particularly morose person who dwells on the topic, but lately it seems some things have got me thinking about the inevitable end more than usual. I think it began with my tires needing changed. I think of my car as being brand new, but in truth it's almost three years old -- regardless of the fact I'm still just paying interest on the loan -- it has been three years. Death of tires, and the fact that I'm 39 and therefor over half way most likely, is beginning to get into my brain.
Then one of my girlfriend's college friends was killed in a car accident and she called me from the funeral. In truth western people should not go to Thai funerals because they will probably feel very uncomfortable at these events. In the background, when Nan called me, I could hear laughter and chatting as if she was at the mall. I asked her directly, "Aren't you at a funeral." "Yes," she responded, "and all my friends are here, it's so good to see them."

I was in shock. Funerals in the west, especially when the deceased is 22 year old, are grim affairs. People say little and speak in quiet voices or sobs. Everyone talks about the waste of someone so young passing and the tragedy of it. We cling to life like no other society on the planet. I actually felt a little angry that her friends were enjoying the funeral, so when she came home we chatted talked about it.

Buddhist don't see death as negative, it is an end to karma and a rebirth awaits. In truth when people die young, despite the emotional attachments of those around them, most Buddhist believe that the person has already learned a lot of their lessons in life and this is why they have passed so young into another existence.

"But, shouldn't friends be upset, someone died." I insisted.

"They are sad and want to pay respect, but the person who died is gone and we are not."

Now my Nan is in the rare 1% Christian minority here in Thailand, a big reason my Mom was so happy when I brought her home to meet her. She said even the Christians here do not dwell on death the way Americans do. We truly can't accept death and Thai people seem to have a much more positive outlook on the loss. It is freedom for the one who has passed, in the same way someone graduating from college and going out into the world must be accepted, so to are those who have passed.

There is no right way to morn. We all deal with loss in our own way, but I must say this is one part of my American heritage I may never lose. Death affects me, scares me, and the impermanence of life is well --for lack of a better word--a bumber.