Monday, June 11, 2012

Funeral Traditions

This week I thought I would share the traditions and ceremonies associated with a funeral in Malaysia.  The whole process is quite touching.  It is not so different from our services, but there are some special things they do that have special meaning to them.  We had an elderly gentlemen in our branch die on Friday afternoon.  He was 84 years old.  He and his wife have been members of the church for six years.  They were former pastors/ministers in their previous church.  They will always greet you at church with a Halleljuia (sp?) and when they leave they always say Praise the Lord.  They are a wonderful couple.  They live with their daughter and her family who are members.  There are also some other children who are members I think.  He had cancer two years ago and as a result he had a hole in his throat and couldn't speak, but he was still delightful.  They called and told us he had died on Friday afternoon.  It is the custom here that you go right to the funeral home and greet the family there after a death.  When we got there, they were still busy with the embalming process.  Some priesthood brethren from the branch were there and they dressed him in his garments.  There are no temple clothes so he was just buried in a nice suit.  After we had been there for about 30 min.  they brought bro. Anjun out and laid him in a clear see thru box.  (Think the one Snow White was in).  Other people came and visited with the family.  The next day they had a service at 7:00 in the evening at the funeral parlor.
When I walked in I was asked to play the keyboard.  At first the keyboard was way too high.  I couldn't even see the keys, let alone play them.  The keyboard was eye level.  Someone came along and adjusted it for me, they almost let it hit the ground.  So I ended up being the keyboardist for the program.  The branch president spoke and then his daughter Dorcas spoke.  Dorcas is a one-woman missionary force.  She has brought so many people into the church it is truly amazing.  When the service is over, as you leave the room, there is a cash box and a book set up for you to sign and make monetary donations.  Then they hand you a "Thank You" envelope with two pieces of candy and a 20 cent piece in it.  On Monday they had a service at the branch building.  I was supposed to play again, but someone else told me not to worry, they would play.  To "play" on the pianos here, all you need to do is push a button and off you go.  Of course, I play not push buttons but I was happy to let someone branch take over this duty.  This time bro Anjun was in a casket with a small window opening over his face where you could just see his face but not touch him.  Again the branch president spoke and the district president spoke and then we all got in a line and walked past the casket to pay our last respects and to meet the family.  Then we went back to our seats.  Then it was the family's turn to go up to the casket.  It was very touching and very sad and very hard to witness.  They are a very emotional people and there was loud crying and wailing.  Some members draped themselves over the casket and had to bee helped away.  It was particularly hard when they closed the casket.  Then we all went to the cemetery.  Ben had been asked earlier that day if he would dedicate the grave.  We both thought they might want someone who spoke Malay to do it so his little widow could understand.  But Ben dedicated the grave.  The grave site was in a very sad part of the cemetery.  Not one blade of grass.  Just dirt and weeds and litter.  Think boot hill only worse.  They had dug a grave and the coffin was placed on ropes and lowered into the grave.  After Ben's prayer, we all took turns throwing handfuls of dirt on the coffin.  Then they started with shovels to fill in the grave.  The grave had no vault or liner.  Just a hole with the casket.  This was another very hard emotional time for the family and friends.  One lady was on the ground with grief.  I thought maybe she was having a seizure, but she was just extremely overcome.  Bro. Anjun's son really had a hard time also.  He kept crying and screaming "Bapa"  which means father.  Someone had to come and hold him upright.  Later that night we went over to sister Dorcas' home to meet the family and have something to eat.  I hope the family found comfort and peace in the services and know that Bro. Anjun is alive and better off.  The funeral was kind of a mix of Mormon and Malay traditions.

Some of you have been asking to see a picture of the car we drive, well here it is:
Sorry.  The image is on it's side.  Not a bad little car don't you think.  It's small but it really can get us around town fast.  Oh wait
I guess this is more like the car we drive.  Small but adequate.  We got a flat tire on the day of the funeral.  We must have driven over something in the weeds.  Ben is doing much better with the driving now.  I'm not nearly as hoarse from screaming and my knuckles are not so white, gradually getting pinker.  And I'm not sucking so much air out of the car anymore either.  I can almost relax a little, almost.  It is really just a coke can on wheels.  Pray that we never have an accident because you know how sturdy coke cans are.

Well, we wish you all the best and hope you are enjoying the gospel.  We are.  It is wonderful to serve in so many different areas.  We have submitted our first humanitarian project that we have developed ourselves.  Pray for us that all will go well with it and that the brethren in Hong Kong will accept it.  I'll write more about our project at a later time.   Love ya all


  1. Always excited to read your blog! Love you guys

  2. Your car is kind of cute! Glad you are doing well. Interesting to hear about how funerals go in Malaysia.
    I love you both.

  3. I don't know how I'd do with all the wailing and nashing of teeth...wait...Seizuring?? Yikes! Sounds like they put it all out there when they are mourning. Makes me wonder what's better for you? Holding it in as much as possible or throwing it all out there for everyone to witness.
    My guess is probably the latter. :) I'll tell Jason to try it next time he's upset, see how it goes.