Monday, February 22, 2010

Culture barriers in handling loss

(October 24, 2007)

Yesterday marked 10 years since my husband lost his father.

Ten years since my mother-in-law lost her husband.

It's amazing how different families, different cultures handle loss.

My mothers side of the family buries their lost loved growing up, I remember having a place to visit my great-grandparents, my uncle...and later my Papa.

My fathers side of the family cremates their lost loved ones, but they keep memorial tablets for deceased relatives near what is called a butsudan (a wooden cabinet with doors that contains items like candlesticks, incense burners, bells, and platforms for placing offerings) so I always remember watching my Gigi (my Japanese grandfather) meditating in front of the family butsudan.

As a young girl, I would occasionally mimic my Gigi when nobody was looking. I would stand in front of the butsudan, light a stick of incense, hold my Gigi's prayer beads and close my eyes and hum. Then I would quickly (and quietly) hit the little bell and run away before someone caught me.

Though it seemed like a game at first, I slowly realized Gigi did this out of respect for his religion, out of respect for his lost relatives.

I soon appreciated being able to just watch and listen to my Gigi meditate in front of the felt as if he were communicating with the dead, and I was there to witness it.

My husband's father was cremated....but his ashes remain with my mother-in-law. They haven't spread the ashes, they don't have a specific place to hold the ashes (as far as I know), they don't have a "place" to visit him.

Not having somewhere to talk to him, somewhere to just sit and know you're "with" him really boggles my mind.

I've mentioned this to my husband before...and he simply shrugs it off saying he doesn't need a "place"...that he's always "with" him. I understand that.  I feel that way about my lost loved ones too....but for's very important to have a place I can physically go to...just because.

Last night, to remember and celebrate the life of their father and husband, the family gathered and went to the park together and then to dinner.

I missed the park outing, but caught up with everyone for dinner.

It was light-hearted for the most part, and then as the evening came to a close, my mother-in-law shared some loving words with her children and then she turned to me and said, "he would have really loved you."

I could tell she meant it, and it really meant a lot to me.

I am saddened that I never got to meet my father-in-law.

Based on all the stories I've heard...I think we would've had a really good time

I wish I did have a place to visit with him though.

I'd like to bring him flowers....or light a stick of incense for him...

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