We went for our annual 清明 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qingming_Festival) on Friday and this time, we squeezed into your uncle’s Honda Civic and made our way to the first stop, which was ChoaChu Kang cemetery. It was a messy place for the uninitiated, but there is a level of organized chaos. The place is quite massive, with rows upon rows of tombstones and graves, all tightly packed together. Your uncle U-Wei is an excellent navigator, and in no time we found our way there, last year, was a different matter, we have to circle a few rounds as your Ah Gong got the location wrong, no thanks to the confusion and crowds which descend upon that place annually for 清明.
Along the way, we listen to your Ah Ma tells us her 清明 experience, where she went with her dad on a pick up truck to a cemetery in Changi, the place has long been exhumed to make way for the living. She told us that Changi cemetery was even messier, and they have to walk over other people’s tomb. As Ah Ma’s dad will always do their 清明 in the evening, Ah Ma will always stay in the pick up to take care of her youngest brother, while her dad, with her eldest sis and 3rd sis will go and do theit 清明 ritual. You Ah Ma’s eldest sis, will always repaint the Chinese engravings on the tombstone as it will always fade off, due to being exposed to the elements. Her mum’s tombstone, was a lot larger and ‘spacious’ compared to the current one.
The one in Choa Chu Kang lies your Ah Gong’s mother, which is your mum’s Ah Ma, from what I know, she has always been nice to your mum. I didn’t have a chance to see her as she died in 1995, which would made this her 20th anniversary.
This time, your mum made Huat Kueh (发糕) for your great grandma, and the other offerings was as laid. fruits, flowers, coffee. The air was still quite crisp that morning as the burning hand’t really commence. we stood around for a while, while the candles and joss sticks burned, and when the time was ‘right’ we packed up and head off to another spot, Mandai Columbarium
Long Traffic Jam!
Oh my, this year, the traffic jam was bad, up to almost 2 hours long, you both had a good long sleep in the car, me included! When we finally reach there, we were quite lucky to find a lot, all thanks to Ah Gong’s sharp eye for a good car park lot. we parked the care without much hassle and headed to our descendants’ duties.
It was quite a massive place, where all the urns are place in niches. Your Great granddad’s urn is placed in ‘Camelia’, row 315. which means it is on the third floor, which mean 3 flights of stairs, for your Ah Gong, who recently had a knee operations.
By the time we reach there it was past noon and 清明 festivities are already in full swing, it was hot, crowded, noisy, messy and a little dirty. The rows are tight and everyone was trying to make their offerings to their respective niches. Some brought chairs, little tables so that they can put their joss sticks and candles, we didn’t and choose to place them on the floor. Your mum made another Huat Kueh for your great granddad as well
The columbarium was more unbearable, the ashes got into every part of our hair, cloths and nostrils, the smoke irritated our eyes and throat, the trapped heat was unbearable, despite of all that we still have to make it, pay our respects, for without our ancestors, we will not have today. They may be long dead, but as far as we can help it, we have to go and do our due diligence.
This is what 清明節 is all about, while we continue to build our new, and look into our future, we still have to remember our past, we have to remember those people who are dead, who made choices in their lives then, so that we can have what we have today. This annual ritual of cleaning the tombstone, and making our rather arduous trips to far fetched lands to see the tombstone, and the niches, right now, the both of you are too young to understand. By the time you both are old enough, I hope you can see the value of 清明節 and continue acknowledging our forefathers while you surge ahead into the future.