It wasn’t somebody I knew, but their body, tightly wrapped in a white sheet was only a few yards from my apartment, the subject of a few dozen gazes and a showering of flower pedals, various ornamental fabrics, and a few tears. It was a surprise, a funeral right there on the street in front of my house, blocking all passage to the main corridor beyond. Spencer and I nearly walked into it but when I spotted a homemade stretcher hosting a body like figure I put two and two together and we quickly turned our heads and…. decided to spy from our balcony, undetected.
What we saw wasn’t spectacular by any means. If anything it was just so strange that we couldn’t really relate. Mourning was minimal, there seemed to be more of an air of attention- a few tears but the focus never strayed from the light conversation being held among friends in remembrance of the dead and an intense adornment of cloth, sweets, flowers, and ultimately this weird cage thing that looked like it was made at the creation station from pipe cleaners. Not to say it wasn’t genuine and beautiful, but it was so different from anything I’d ever seen at a funeral that I could only visually categorize it as an arts and crafts project.
We followed the body as 6 guys hoisted it onto their shoulders and walked right out to the main road, through 6 lanes of angry afternoon traffic, all the while leaving a trail of Indian crackers and sweets (they were throwing them at the body as they walked) that were crushed by pedestrian steps and car tires seconds later. This might as well be about the same as lifting a corpse onto your shoulders and walking through 20mph heavy traffic on I-5 in downtown Seattle. They walked about a quarter mile to the local temple where a brief prayer was performed and a few tears shed. All the women in the group entered the temple while the body was hoisted into the back of an ‘ambulance’ (a small van about half the size of a VW bus equipped with little more than a plywood bed) and the hatch was left open as the body was carried away to it’s fiery disintegration.
It was such an interesting custom to witness, and SO hard to relate to or understand even in the slightest. But rather than try and ask all the questions on my mind I just enjoyed the spectacle and said a prayer of my own for the deceased. I was happy to see they were well loved, and I hope my curiosity didn’t offend them.