Dealing in Death, Pt. II

by cedhausen

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Since I’ve covered aspects of Nirvana that were dripping in gold yesterday, today’s offerings shall be gentler to the eyes, like the Photo of the Day above, where the palace’s roof overlooks a cascade that gushes into a reflective pool and several willows whose veil-like appendages skim the water’s surface… or this statue of the Buddha in deep contemplation about his place in the universe, right hand raised with palm opened like a shopper at a supermarket politely refusing that tenacious credit card salesperson who makes your blood boil by following you all the way to your car but all you could muster to him is a restrained “no, thank you” for the umpteenth time:

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You can’t fool us with that stoic expression of yours, Buddha. Admit it, you’re just as peeved as the rest of us.

… before this progresses into a Lewis Black standup, allow me to share one last photo of the sumptuous columbarium because I just realised something about the vaults:

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They look like Regina’s vault of hearts from Once Upon a Time. Just imagine this ritzy looking lounge as your private living room and you’re surrounded by a collection of boxes containing the hearts of people who have wronged you in your lifetime, and now you have them at your beck and call to execute your evil desires. I have such fantastical and sordid imaginations… Oh, they also make for great conversation starters! “That a**hole crashed my car.” “This one belongs to a colleague who kept stealing my Greek yoghurt from the office pantry.” “This one never spelt my name right.” “She took my favourite pen without asking… then lost it.” Fun times… fun times…

Anyway, back to the rest of the memorial park and the solemn subject of death. Nirvana’s main clientele are the ethnic Chinese, consequently explaining the choice of design for the place. The various areas are segregated first by the funeral service (cremation or burial), then land value. Yeap. You’re essentially buying a serviced suite or a plot of land to house your remains, and if you can’t afford the deluxe presidential chamber for two and the one-way ticket to nirvana on a heavenly chariot (no stops, no layovers), never fear, here’s an economic option for you. *opens up catalogue and lays it on the table* 

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Ancestral tablets. They’re cheap, simple, and requires almost no maintenance.

It’s real estate for the dead, and frankly I’m a little concerned over this. I am not entirely certain if my generation of Millennials are cognisant of the astronomical price tags that come with their expiration dates. It’s a morbid subject, I agree, but to think we can’t exactly rest in peace unless we have enough dough to rest in peace seems a little oxymoronic to me. While I’m in a position to secure my own “comfortable” death, what about the rest of the population? What happens to the bodies of so many others who are unaccounted for? Is this even a valid enquiry?

It is because of the value we place in our own deaths that we willingly pay the extra buck to house our remains along with the memories, achievements, discoveries, pleasures, disappointments, experiences associated with said remains. I am a victim of this over-sentimentalisation, and my vulnerability makes me the perfect target for death care service providers like Nirvana. Funerals services are highly symbolic affairs, but they need not be expensive. Superficial ornamentation are of no importance to the dead; it is the living who make such a big deal out of it. I dread the day when I’m eighty and wheelchair-bound, my children would take me to a columbarium to show me my final resting place. “Isn’t this a lovely place?” I hear them ask rhetorically.

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I had all these thoughts in my head as I was exploring the area, and I’m glad that in spite of the tinselly embellishments indoors, I could escape to the placid pool for a breather. See? Death affects not the dead, but the living. These additional areas serve no purpose to the departed, they weren’t constructed for the deceased; they provide sanctuary to those who feel asphyxiated by death, like me.

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Had I been walking amongst unadorned white headstones like those at Arlington National Cemetery, I wouldn’t have been so overwhelmed by death’s omnipresence. I guess it’s different for everyone. Though the smell of burning incense from altars like these did help to calm me down a little as well:

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Once the talk was over. I met up with my parents and showed them the pictures I’ve taken around the area, content that I had a decent selection from my examination of the place. They brought me to the columbarium where they’ve purchased a niche for themselves, which looks something like this:

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I thought it too disturbing to take a photo of their final resting place, but the arrangement of this one at a different area is very similar to theirs.

“See that one? Up there? First row on the left. That’s ours.”

Maaa, I’m not tall, how’d you expect me to see your faces at that height?”

“But it’s the penthouse mah…” *laughs*

What did I tell you? Real estate.