Being here in Chiang Mai to be with Ted and Amina Vorster and Tony over the last couple of days has been an amazing gift. Emily and I, together with Tony, Ted and Amina wanted to have a forum to share what is happening here as Soraya prepares for her next journey. We know that there are countless people all over the world who would do anything to be here for her and her family, so hopefully this forum helps you all feel a bit closer and connected to the ceremony we have already begun.
In Thai Buddhist tradition, it is believed that the deceased does not understand that they have passed until they have been told. Last night, the first of four days of ceremony began. The purpose of this first ceremony was to tell Soraya that she has passed so that her soul doesn't wander and she can start the process of moving on. Five monks chanted the message that death is universal and unavoidable.
Soraya's beautiful white and gold coffin had been surrounded by tons of flowers donated by Khun Vit, the owner of the Sri Pat Guesthouse where Soraya religiously stayed (even though our stipend barely covers it, she insisted on staying here). A gorgeous picture of her was placed in a wreath of carnations, orchids and lilies. The first thing Tony noticed upon walking in was that they forgot the 'A' in Pandola on her name card. Ghing quickly penned one in with a sharpie - evidence that it is important to always have one on hand. Some of Soraya's favorite foods had been laid at the foot of her coffin so that she could enjoy them. The mood was light, we were all able to enjoy a meal with her and crack a joke here and there in her honor. Everyone lit incense and said a prayer to her. After the chanting and ceremony, we all had some food, hung out and joked around. Ghing playfully toasted her photo. As we were leaving, Tony realized he still had half of his desert left. As we all know, Soraya had a healthy appetite, so in memory of her stealing half his food on a regular basis, he left the remaining half by her side. Whataguy. In attendance were Ted and Amina Vorster, Tony, Emily, Linden, Ghing, Boom, Piak, Oye, Khun Vit and his wife, Yunn, and Holly Mattos and friend.
It is very important to Tony that it be communicated to all of you out there that the mood here is light and full of love and support. It feels like one big family and we are being embraced by each other, our Thai friends and the Thai culture. We are constantly reminiscing about Soraya - her love for cats, her love for food (yes, we are eating LOTS of it in her honor), her passion for ritual, her ability to be 100% in the moment at all times, her passion for capoeira, her insistence that everyone else love what she love and much more. We are celebrating her love for life and her genuine kindness and compassion. Her parents are so happy to finally be here in Chiang Mai which had a special place in Soraya's heart, pulling her back year after year.
Standing with tradition, we all returned to the temple this morning to bring Soraya breakfast and share another meal with her. Tonight we all return to the temple to celebrate her story and spirit. Spreading this ritual out over four days gives everyone a chance to slowly let go and become prepared for the cremation ceremony which will take place tomorrow. Soraya's cousin Ibraham just arrived from Singapore and Nik will be here later tonight. We are also eagerly awaiting the arrival of Linda, Maeanna, Steve and Laurel.
Lots of Love and Big Hugs from CM,
Linden and Emily