On 15 May my mother-in-law Shi Qi (born Shi Lei) passed away, after a long and difficult illness. She was born in 1932. Her husband, Sun Yang, perished in the Cultural Revolution, along with his sister Sun Weishi – both famous. She is survived by her two sons and one daughter (my wife).
The funeral was held at Babaoshan on Friday 17 May. Personally I hate funerals because I get too emotional; I was by far not the only one.
The whole process was also a new experience. I thought we were supposed to be in white. No, we had to wear black. Seems that now it is black in the big cities and white in the countryside.
An unexpectedly large group of people turned up. New for me, they brought “white envelopes”, opposed to the hongbao (red envelopes) at weddings; cash is inside. The people who leave their condolences: their names are written on white silk-like ribbons that are the fixed on the wreaths; the flowers turned out to be nearly all in plastic. I thought, re-usable. Wrong again in part: the ones hanging on the wall were indeed “rented” but the other ones, mostly of the family, were bought. After the ceremony we headed procession-like to big incinerators were the real flowers were fed into a shredder to make fertilizer and the plastics were burned along with the white ribbons.
Once the room was ready, with the others waiting outside, the close family lined up. They rolled in the coffin, opening it showing the lady. Then the visitors were led in, lined up and shook our hands. Then, people paid respect to the deceased and the son Mingming put most of the manuscripts of Shi Qi with her. She had requested that the manuscripts be burned along with her body. She also was a writer, earlier she was a professor teaching Chinese in Renmin University.
Then they closed the coffin and took it away to the incinerator.
We went to a restaurant nearby and had our lunch, with a really huge fish head dish, one of the favorite dishes of grandma. The first portion was put in a box as an offering to her.
After the lunch we headed back to Babaoshan to collect the bones. I thought it were ashes, wrong again – bones. At Grandma’s request her bones will be thrown into the river in Harbin, where she was born.
Valerie being her only real grandchild she had the special role to carry her picture. Her wreath was also at a different place, at the end of the coffin. In a rather strange procession, the red bag with bones was carried to the car and it was Valerie receiving them and taking them into the car.
And then we simply drove away. The red bag is for the time being in one of Sun’s brothers’ home, in a makeshift altar.
The pics show most of the ceremony.
Thanks to all who showed up and who showed their sympathy.