As far as I can recall, I have never been to Mandai Crematorium or even stepped inside the vicinity of a funeral parlor. Ang Chin Moh Casket was my virgin experience; a tour around by Mr Ang was certainly an eye-opener as I realized that the service he provided was highly professional. It didn’t feel like some dubious or insidious looking store selling coffins, but rather, a working office that exuded an aura of cleanliness and tranquil.
There were a lot of technical details and know-how with regard to being a funeral director. I am amazed by the amount of information shared and intrigued by his dedication to his work. Mr Ang is concerned about the funeral industry sector as a whole and not merely just about his company. Surely sustainable profit is essential for any business to thrive, but to appeal to higher ideals such as his move to set up a foundation or to standardize sector practice is another ballgame altogether.
Touring around Mandai Crematorium invoked a different feeling; during the tour, I could see scores of people walking in, dressed with countenance marked by grief and solemn. Notably among them, there was this middle-age woman being held tightly in interlocking arms, supported on both sides by people whom I presumed were her family. I could see the exhaustion that lined her face; the debilitating fatigue from the raw grief of her deceased beloved probably worn her down so much that she could hardly walk. What was left of her physical strength was woefully spent on tears.
One thought came into my mind; is there really space to grieve in Singapore beyond the funeral processes? Where do people go after all the ritual had concluded? The demands of everyday concerns often push us forward in a relentless fashion and I really wondered if people who needed more time and space for bereavement – where do they go?
Increasingly, I began to view death more as a social phenomenon and less of a medical outcome. A death in a family instantly altered existing social status and circumstances: you becoming widowed, death insurance policy finally taking effect, your ownership of HDB house is now under one name or death certificate becomes more important than IC moving forward. People would probably not consider such changes upfront, but as we progress through life, these new ‘identities’ are subtle reminders that we are living with probably one less support or source of validation.
Recalibrating our assumptive worldview that today will always look like yesterday is forcefully being challenged. Maybe the idea is truly to live your fullest every day because cliché as it sounds, you never know if today would be your last day on earth.