Getting Down To The Heart Of The Matter October 30, 2008

Filed under: Ruminations — bloodsweatntears @ 6:22 pm

I’ve thought about becoming an organ donor on more than one occasion, when a wave of selfless altruism passes through my stream of consciousness. But when it came down to it, I couldn’t do it. I went to get my license renewed last week and I stood there with my form and I just. couldn’t…sign it! I genuinely thought about all those people that could benefit from my heart, lungs, kidneys, liver…… and then I got all weirded out thinking about the possibility of my organs functioning in different bodies. To top it off I heard my mother’s voice chime in about it being bad luck and all. Chinese people are so superstitious! It worked, as my paranoia got the best of me as I left with just my temporary license and new sort of religious ethic. I can’t pinpoint what it is exactly – because I do believe the physical body is mere shell for the soul. The whole thing has caught me off guard as it has opened a big can of worms. It’s not everyday where one thinks about where their physical body goes after death. And as we near the Day of the Dead, it reminds me of the different ways people revere their dead.

A few years ago I took a trip to Hong Kong to pay my respect to my grandfather, who passed away when I was very young. Keeping our family tradition, we paid him a visit at his resting place on Macau, a short boat ride away from Hong Kong. Along with us we brought red envelopes, incense, oranges and wine. We stopped off at a nearby shop and bought all these paper goods. Like everything the dead could want, made out of paper. A paper cell phone for instance. Maybe some paper clothes, books and of course, paper money! We took all this paper to burn, so the smoke would reach up to the sky to whichever level my grandfather was hanging out in. I’m not sure which religion this is – seems to me to be a combination of Taosim and Buddhism. I’m not sure which one has the 13 levels of heaven, but he is somewhere up there. We left the wine and oranges for him to eat if he got hungry. All in all we were probably there for a couple of hours. First my mom swept his grave – so it was neat and tidy. Then she burned the incense and we took turns with our prayers. Then she set out the oranges and wine and before we left, we burned our paper gifts. I didn’t take any pictures of this, as I felt it was disrespectful but I’m glad I went and participated. Someday I will have to pay a visit to my other grandfather who is buried in Illinois.

Macau is apparently the Las Vegas of the far east, as most of the island’s economy is driven by gambling. And let me tell you, Chinese people love to gamble. In fact, after we visited my grandfather, we went to gamble in honor of him. Every time my mom put money into the slot, she’d say, this is for your grandfather! May we win the jackpot!