Last night the second ceremony of four took place. The focus of the day turned from the general idea of death and dying to Soraya's specific story. We returned to the temple in the evening and saw that Ghing had already brought her dinner - sticky rice, pork "boob," chili sauce and Chang beer. Since we had last been there, the flowers around Soraya had multiplied. There was a wreath from Backroads and one from the Suanthip Resort, along with much of their staff. The top of her coffin was also decorated with individual bouquets. After a series of chants by a group of monks one head monk spoke about Soraya. The message of the evening was that just by looking at a picture of Soraya, one could tell that she was a happy person. There was no other way to see her. He went on to say that some people have a long time on this earth and some people have a short time and that's just the way the world works. Soraya's time was short, but she did what she needed to do to hang on until Tony and her mom and dad could be here with her to see her off.
Soraya's cousin, Ibrahim had arrived from Singapore earlier in the day and was able to see her for the first time. It was a great comfort to her parents to have another family member here, someone who knew Soraya as a child. We took a group photo with Soraya and after the ceremony we all returned to Sri Pat. Tony took some much needed rest and we went out to dinner with the Vorsters and Ibrahim to one of Soraya's favorite local places, Prego. It is really important to her parents, especially Ted, to see the places where she spent her time here. Prego is an open cafe with organic salads and Thai food. They also have free wifi, so Soraya used to go there to do her Backroads work and catch up on life during down time here. She insisted on taking Emily there before the last two trips they led.
We returned to Sri Pat and stayed up way too late chatting, telling stories and listening to the latest pop music with Tony. Nik got in late and joined us. It's has been great to see familiar faces. This morning, we all returned to the temple to bring Soraya one last breakfast. We pulled out all the stops - it was very abundant with lots of garnish; fruit, cookies, oranges, sticky rice, chili paste, and two waters. Tony and the Vorsters woke her up to eat and just a short time later Ghing's van arrived with Linda Cassell, Maeanna Glenn, Steve Pandola and Laurel Frederick. They had had a long trip from California, but it was amazing to see good friends. They all got to light some incense for Soraya and talk to her a little before we headed back to prepare for the main event.
At about 10:30 am we all returned to the temple for Soraya's cremation ceremony. The way Tony described it to us, this is the Thai Buddhist way of giving her a visa to allow her to go anywhere she wants on her journey. And our final opportunity to say goodbye before she is gone. The monks were chanting today in an effort to open all doors for Soraya. After the temple ceremony, all of the flowers and coffin were moved to a cart. The cart was then led by two monks followed by everyone to the crematorium. We then all stood in attendance while the men carried the coffin up to the platform and she was placed inside the chamber. After watching until the smoke came out of the chimney, we returned to the temple to make one last wish for Soraya before Tony symbolically blew out the last lit candle.
Although the mood was heavier today than it has been, Ghing tried to emphasize to us that we should be happy because Soraya is now free and her spirit can go wherever it wants. Tony noted that the coffin was extremely heavy, but with everyone's help, he was able to get Soraya up where she belonged. I can't speak for everyone else here, but it has been a great comfort to me to say goodbye to someone in such a positive and hopeful way. Soraya is a free soul now, happy wherever she desires.
And now after a little down time, we are heading out for foot massages, beer, and street food. It's certainly not what everyone does after a cremation, but it feels like what Soraya would want us to do.
There were many people in attendance today, including: Tony, the Vorsters, Ibrahim, Ghing, Boom, Piak, Oye, Vit, Nu, Yunn and wife, Tuk and son, Holly, Linda, Laurel, Steve, Maeanna, Emily, Nik, Linden, Brian, Rosie and parents, Will, a group from Rose's yoga studio and other Thai friends.
Photos in Order:
1: Ghing writing in the "A" in Pandola.
2: Tony and Ghing choosing the menu for the cremation ceremony meal.
3: Shopping in the market for Soraya's meal.
4: Pork boob, sticky rice, Chang beer, and chili sauce.
5: Ibrahim, Ted, Piak, Amina, Ghing, Tony, Linden, Oye, Vit.
6: Soraya's family.
7: Head monk.
8: Linda adding to the cremation banners with all the names from Berkeley and beyond.
9: Tony offering incense.
10: Emily talking to Soraya.
11: The coffin on the cart with all the flowers.
12: The procession.
13: More procession.
14: Tony driving the cart.
15: Taking the coffin into the crematorium.
16: Monks entering the crematorium.
17: Tony, Ghing, and a monk.
18: The smoke coming out of the chimney.