This past week, my uncle passed away from cancer so I had the opportunity to experience a full-fledged Buddhist Korean funeral. When I got to the hospital, I had to pay my respects to his son and his mother and then we were ushered into this room where the dead body was (it was covered with a sheet). When the whole family was in that room, they began to clean the body and wrap it in this traditional Korean funeral garment. It was very ritualistic and probably took more than an hour. For example, they cut off some of his toe nails and finger nails, and while they were doing that, they said some ritualistic saying. Afterwards, they put those things in a small bag and put it on his body. They did the same thing for some of his hair too.
After wrapping the whole body, they showed us his head and had people put their left hand on his forehead and then walk around the body once. Since i’m a Christian, I didn’t follow those rituals, but with another one of my uncle’s and his wife, we prayed for him and everyone in the room instead.
The next day, we travelled to the country side and buried the body – there was so much ritual in doing that as well. They also offered food to my decesased uncle as a sacrifice offering (Ancesteral worship and respecting the dead is really big in Korea).
I’m so glad that my uncle who is Christian has a big role and influence in my family. If no one was Christian except me, I know I would have faced a lot more persecution and perhaps would have been forced to bow down to the deceased and follow the Buddhist rituals. I know others who were forced to bow down to their dead ancestors because they refused to do it since they were Christians. They were hit and abused.
I wonder what is going to happen when a Christian passes away in my family here in Korea? What kind of rituals and ceremony are they going to have?
I hope I don’t have to see another funeral soon, but things happen and everyone will eventually die. Am I ever glad that this life is temporary and I have eternal life waiting for me.