Sunday, December 13, 2009

Black Hanbok and White Chrysanthemums - A Funeral

Today was a very sad day. We went to my uncle's funeral this morning. The funeral home was in the basement of the hospital. Cancer is so cruel. It isn't fair to spend your last days in pain.

We bowed to his portrait surrounded by white chrysanthemums. All the women wore black hanbok. They also pinned tiny, white ribbons in their hair. It reminded me that Mom didn't allow me to wear white barrettes when I was younger because she said it meant someone had died.

How do people remain so composed at funerals and not simply crumble into tears? I guess there's nothing but the company of others to hold the grief at bay.

We ate lots of food and the soju started flowing around noon, which helped (although I couldn't bring myself to drink it that early - Isaac let himself be goaded into three shots). All our family was there, including people I've never seen, like two of Dad's cousins. It was a nice thing to see so much of our family again, especially when we're told funny stories, like my father's uncle did (he loves telling stories).

One lasting image from today is from when everyone gathered to say goodbye to me and Isaac, everyone who knew us, anyway - all the women, my cousins and their husbands, my uncles and my father's uncle. We had bowed to everyone individually already. They all gathered and followed us to the brink of the doorway as put our shoes back on, a row of black hanbok, a sea of kind faces. I gave one last wave and the sea waved back.

As soon as I hit the hallway, the tears really started flowing. It's hard to say goodbye when you didn't feel you had the language to know them well enough in life. I'm so afraid of losing the older generation that way, each a locked box of treasures I'll never hear.

I'll remember my uncle as a gentle grandfather with an easy smile, putting on his newsboy cap whenever he headed out to teach his calligraphy class. I count myself lucky when I think back to the times I was able to watch him practicing his brush strokes diligently at home.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm so afraid of losing the older generation that way, each a locked box of treasures I'll never hear" - so sweet Hannah. Sorry about the loss of your Uncle. - Fetus

12:29 AM  
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