I took this picture morning of Christmas Eve while I was walking at the park. I’ve always loved the melancholic sound of the erhu, so when I heard it, I walked towards where the sound was coming from and saw this old man facing the pagoda as if he was playing for the one for whom it was built. Fortunately for me, he turned around and, click! I took a photo.
The ever sentimental me imagined the old man was probably playing for his grandfather or great grandfather, and I thought how nice it would be to be remembered the same way by the ones you leave behind. (Of course the practical and realistic part of me has something else to say.)
That night, Christmas Eve, my husband and our friends and I talked about death instead of having dessert after dinner. It came about after our friend complained about being over 60 and feeling that he was getting really close to the end. I just laughed at him saying 60 wasn’t old, and I remembered crying when my father turned 60 as I thought he was going to die soon, but he lived to be 81.
It was not the first time we talked about death instead of having dessert. I remember another time when I thought aloud about dying and nobody would be coming to my funeral because I have not lived in my hometown for a long time, and my friends have also left. My husband, who is introverted, felt the same way. And so did our friend who was in his early 50’s then.
But really, does it matter? Would we even know?
I would like to think my father is aware that we have not forgotten him, that I have not forgotten him. That I light candles for him on important dates, and I smoke a cigarette on his birthday and on All Soul’s Day, that I visit his grave whenever I go home and again before I leave. I do all these because I want to, because I like remembering him, and I want him to be happy, just in case he is aware of these things.
My husband once asked me if I thought our son (this was before our son was diagnosed with ASD) would ever visit his (my husband’s) grave in his hometown in the north of China on Tomb-sweeping Day. He was a little shocked by my blunt and totally unsympathetic reply: “Are you crazy? Why would you burden your son to travel every year just to visit your grave? You would not even be there anymore!” I did apologize for the bluntness, but he admitted it was a burden.
I don’t want to be buried. I want to be cremated, and my ashes scattered in the sea in my hometown or any sea really. Or, if Eli, by that time is already capable of feeling love and loss like typical people do, perhaps he can keep some for himself that he can carry around with him wherever he goes. And if the dead me sees that, I would be truly happy.
I think we all want, desire to be remembered by people we love. But when we’re gone, it doesn’t really matter if they do or they don’t, does it?
Remembering is only for the good of the living, not of the dead.