“So, have you talked to your boyfriend about marriage?” one of my relatives asked.
It was my mother’s wake, a couple of days before her cremation. The stream of people who came to pay their last respects was endless and I was taking a short break from talking to people and praying.
“Not yet. I’ll talk to him as soon as I get the chance,” I answered with a tired smile.
Discussing marriage at a wake.
Do you think it’s weird?
It didn’t stop there.
Not only had I had the same discussion throughout the whole 3-day wake (with different people), but I also had one right after my mother’s cremation (with my dad and a monk).
I was heartbroken and exhausted.
I had no choice.
Looking back, it seems bizarre now how casual and normal I had felt discussing marriage in the middle of a wake. My mother was in a coffin just a few metres away from where the conversation took place.
Imagine asking, urging your friend to get married, right after her mother died.
The conversation took place again, reverently, normally, with my father and a monk, not long after I wailed like an animal watching my mother burned to ashes.
Never mind the devastation. I have to observe the cultural norm, right?
Are you thinking ‘Why does she have to discuss her marriage at her mother’s wake and funeral?’ ?
If a death of a parent of the groom or bride happens before their wedding, custom dictates that the couple will have to marry within 100 days of their passing or wait 1,000 days (or three years) before doing so as a sign of respect to the deceased.
Everyone does it.
I have friends who had gotten married exactly under the same circumstances.
It was not weird to discuss my marriage amidst my haze of grief.
I had to.
Only now I realize I didn’t really have to.
Only now I realize how cruel that had been.
How can anyone expect someone — anyone — to think about marriage at a funeral?
To this day, I still don’t know how I carried out the discussion like a normal person. Like nothing was happening.
Thinking about it makes me sad.
My mother had wanted to be the mother of the bride. To see me walked down the aisle, celebrate the happy occasion with her friends. She had also wanted to help me raise my children.
Discussing marriage when all I had wanted to do was just shut down, stop thinking and feeling, and wished it was all just a bad dream that I would eventually wake up from —
Constantly being told to broach the subject with my (at the time) boyfriend who was thousands of miles away when I was already swamped —
When I felt lost and utterly confused as to how to proceed with life —
Those people who had inquired about my relationship and marriage weren’t wrong.
They were just doing what they thought they had to do.
Just like how I thought I had to discuss my marriage at my mother’s wake and funeral.
I didn’t want to.
But it was a responsibility.
It makes you ponder.
Should all cultural norms be observed regardless of the damage it might cause?
Because this is not the only stupid cultural crap I’ve had to deal with when I lost my mother.
I was told not to cry every time I went close to my mother’s body.
Because she wouldn’t be able to let go and leave peacefully.
Because me, or any other family members and friends being sad will turn her into a wandering soul, unable to crossover because she couldn’t leave her loved ones broken and in pain.
But how does one not mourn their loved ones?
How can one discuss their marriage right after they lost someone they love dearly?
How can someone be expected to contemplate a joyful celebration right after the death of his/her loved ones?
I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now.
Writing how I wasn’t allowed to cry near my mother gave me a huge relief.
The outpouring of comments proved to me that I wasn’t insane. That it was truly mad to expect someone not to cry near their dead loved ones.
I would like to say with conviction that it is equally mad to expect people to discuss marriage — a party no less — right after they lost someone they love more than life.
But so many people are doing it.
People get married within a hundred days of losing their loved ones.
Cultures that do not serve us should be erased.
It’s just not right.
It shouldn’t be normal.
This story had been prompted by a question in Quora: “How to comfort a friend who just lost a loved one?” (Writing a post on this soon.)
Well, I’m going to say this.
Screw useless cultural crap.
Think carefully before you say anything at all and most importantly, don’t ask taxing questions.
The mourning ones are already drained as it is.
This post is a part of my October writing challenge:
October — A Little Announcement
An open invitation to my readers and fellow writers.
If you have a burning question(s) you think I can answer (it can be about anything), feel free to pop the question(s) in the comment section below or e-mail me the question(s) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey!