Saturday, January 15, 2011

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.


Ashley Watson said...

Linden and Emily: I can't express how grateful I am for this blog. Please keep the words and pictures coming. It helps all of us feel like we are a part of this beautiful tradition, and it brings us peace to see Soraya's final path. Thank you for sharing, and for taking such good care of Tony and the Vorsters.

phira said...

Many thanks to Emily and Linden to create this blog so that we, who live far away from Thaïland, we could join all of you to bid farewell to our beloved cousin.
I'm also happy to know that my uncle, auntie and Tony are surrounded with so many friends and love.
Thanks to all from the ABDOUL CARIME family
PS : Susu , I didn't mean god but
ghost so don't come tickling my feet

Charles Olken said...

As a friend and part-time mentor of Soraya during her high school years in northern California, my heart is heavy today. I remember her as a vibrant, exciting person and a joy.

My condolenences to her friends and family and especially to her parents, Ted and Amina who are two of the kindest, nicest people in the world.

Celine said...

Thank you so much for sharing this magical and spiritual yet private moment with all of us. I am sure that Soraya's journey will be as happy and positive as her life on earth was. I can see her smiling.
Sending my love to you all. Namaste.

HIM said...

On s'est toujours parle en francais alors pourquoi changer les habitudes... j espere que personne ne m'en voudra si je n'ecrit pas en anglais !

Je me sens privilegier d'avoir pu assister aux ceremonies et pouvoir te faire un dernier hommage ou te dire non pas "adieu cousine", mais plutot "a un de ces jours".

J'ai pu enfin faire la connaissance de ton mari Tony. C'est un gars formidable. J ai egalement rencontre tes amis qui sont tous des gens adorables. J'ai appris plein de choses sur toi comme par exemple tu aimes parler pendant un massage ou tu ecris des articles...

J'aime a penser, comme dit ta maman, que tu m as faire un dernier bisous sur la joue avant de t'evaporer dans les airs, ce qui explique cette trace que j avais sur une partie de mon visage ;o)

A bientot cousine, et brille dans le ciel !

Nicole said...

Thank you so much for allowing us to share in the farewell tradition with you. It really makes us feel a part of it and helps ease some of the sadness we're feeling - Soraya's light will always remain a part of all of us.

Very sincere thanks,
Nicole Fisher

Jeremy said...

I knew Soraya at UC Davis. I don't know that I've ever met anyone who was so full of life and passion. And she shared this love of life with all of those around her. I have not talked to Soraya in years but I still think back on our short time together with great fondness. I know that her imprint on this world will remain alive through all who knew and cared about her.

And I also want to say thank you for the blog- it is a great comfort to be able to follow her farewell from afar.

Love and best wishes on your journey Soraya-

nick said...

Yet another huge thank you, Linden, for all that you have done to share the beauty of Soraya's ceremony with us. This blog has allowed me to feel the depth of her loss and, at the same time, feel comfort in knowing that she is being honored and celebrated in such a beautiful way. This is the first time my heart has felt peace surrounding her passing. I'm so grateful for the presence of the Backroads community there in Thailand as ambassadors of our love and support.

Tony, my heart is especially with you. A group of us in Costa Rica made prayer flags out of clothes from our backpacks and strung it together with dental floss. We all wrote notes to her. That night at sunset, we held a ceremony in her honor with her name written in the sand, surrounded by the prayer flags and tropical flowers. As we finished, we tried holding a moment of silence in her honor...and just then lightning and thunder cracked through the sunset sky--the first and only time this happened on our trip. It seemed obvious that she was saying, "F the moment of silence, get to the red wine toast!" we did.

And to you, Soraya, thank you for continuously pushing the boundaries of "normal" and lighting the way to a life dictated not by borders and boundaries, but instead by limitless imagination. You will be forever celebrated in my heart and never forgotten. Your spirit lives on in all of us.

With great love to Soraya and in celebration of a life well-lived,