Monday, March 30, 2015

Life After Death


It has been a bitter sweet weekend for me. Heading back to my home town to celebrate Qing Ming or Cheng Beng. At the same weekend too was the funeral of the former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. When I was young, Cheng Beng has always been a happy family gathering for me, where we will head to my great-grandparents resting place then to my grandpa's resting place. Its been a yearly affair where I look forward to the food, the cleaning up of my ancestors final resting place and the fun stories that my family members tell about the departed, even if you heard it year after year. Stories about how great my great-grandparents are and what they did during the yesteryears always gets me excited and I always wondered how are they when they are alive. I would always look forward to the end of the prayers as we are allowed to eat the food that was offered. One of my favourites is the "siew mai" or meat dumplings that my aunt bought. 

Throughout the years it was the same ritual, same procedure, it became an annual routine. I always knew about what Cheng Beng is all about but then as I get older I started to see the importance of it. It is not just visiting and pay respect to our deceased ancestors because we have to and just "makan" but the festival actually have a deeper meaning. Things started to change 5 years ago. After my dad passed away and followed by my grandma few months later, The whole meaning and importance of the Cheng Beng festival became more clearer to me. I understand now why it is celebrated. It is not about religion nor was it to pray for the deceased to get their blessings. Although lots of people tend to skew towards that. It is about to remembering and to remind us where we came from. Who are our family, and what did they do. It is a festival to remind and educate the younger and coming generations of their family and their roots and their history. The prayers and ritual was merely an addition to make it more official and meaningful. Cheng Beng is a Chinese culture where we sort of make our younger generations learn about their family and why do we carry our family name. It is because of this festival, I get to know so much about my great-grandparents. They passed on before I was born but I somehow feel connected to them. Same goes with my grandpa. I have no recollection of him as he passed away when I was just 3 years old. But it is because of the stories told by my family that I can relate to him and my family's past. 

As I mentioned earlier, things became more apparent when my dad and grandma passed away. I now understand why my aunts and uncles or my grandaunts and uncles share their stories of my deceased ancestor. I too wanted to share my stories of my dad and grandma. Share the stories of what I have experienced and witnessed. Share the the idea and principles that they stand for. Everytime my family members share their stories, I am not sure whether they are aware about it but they are passing on the legacy of my family. Letting me know my roots and my family's history. 

Coming back to yesterday, when I was travelling back to KL from my home town after visiting my ancestors resting place, a strange thought popped into my head (mind you, it was a long journey and my mind works best while I am driving). This came after my aunt from Singapore told that that day was the funeral of the late Lee Kuan Yew, and that thought suddenly struck me. I suddenly have a thought of what life after death actually means. I am never always a religious person. I somehow reject the idea of the institution of religion but I somehow believe that there is a big guy up there. Be it a supernatural being or just a group of sentient being. But then again, I do respect all religion as it is a way of life to teach a person to be a better person!

Coming back to the story, I have always asked or been asked on whether I do believe in life after death. What will we become after our time on this planet ends... then it occurs to me after joining the dots in my head. 

Most people said that there is a heaven and there is a hell. Heaven for those who does good deeds and hell for those who did bad deeds. Most religion says the same thing. But does anyone really knows about it? This is when things get blurry for me. How can a person be judged whether he or she goes to hell or heaven? There are some things that we have done may be deemed good by one person but bad for another. Then it occurred to me during my drive is that heaven and hell is in all of us. What we have done to other living being while we are alive determines where we go. Right? How much we influence a person or a group of people determines where we go. That is life after death. 

I believe that when we die, we don't go anywhere but live in the minds and memory of others. The people that we touch determines where we go. It is in their minds that determines where we go. We do good, people will think we go to heaven. We do bad, people will want us to go to hell. Hence heaven and hell is in all of us. We will never know where we go after death but knowing that we have done a great deal of good deeds that we will be ingrained into people's mind forever. Just like the great deeds that our ancestors did or just like the great deeds that the great leaders/personalities did. 

In generations to come, they will still talk about the deeds we did in their life that ensure that in their memories we are now in heaven. No prayers, rituals nor offerings can make it any different. It is just a process to recollect the memories of old. With that our souls or memory will live on as a series of image in a persons mind. So everytime someone speaks of another person with respect after they are gone you know that there is life after death. The more you touch a person's life, the longer your soul or memory lives... and in their mind, you will always be in heaven (that is if you do good lah!).

Hence, I always live with this idea where, if you live a life with respect of others and yourself, you will get it back in return whether it is now or later...

Then again, that is what I think-lah! 
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