It has been over 100 days since my mom passed away, it’s also our tradition to show respect by having a memorial service for her which Lao people called it Boun 100 Vanh.As I was talking to different Laotians, old and young, surprisingly they knew very little, and pretty much explained that it’s our tradition and have been passing down for generations.For some, this might be a good enough explanation, but it’s not for me, I want to understand why I’m doing it, my mom is very special to us, and it’s very important for me to understand the event, she won’t be ‘past-tense’ to any of us, because she is a part of us.Since her death, I have many friends that gave me great comfort, some by their kind words, and others by patiently listen.The greatest comfort of all came from one of our local monks by high ranking of Maha, Pramaha Somsak who lead the service at my mom Boun 100 Vanh this past Sunday.His words of wisdom has touched our hearts when he said to us ‘even though your mom passed, but she’s always a part of you, your bone structure is a gift from your dad, and the mass and liquid forms of your body are of your mom.’So if one day you’d ask me, where is my mom?I’ll remember to tell you that she’s with me, today, tomorrow, and always.
Since my mom’s funeral, I’ve been visiting several temples and spoke to numerous monks and some of them thought that it’s almost comical that I’ve had so many questions, some even jokingly asked if I’m a reporter, and if I do make any money for me to donate to the temple.I thought about submitting to a Lao magazine, which means that I won’t be able to publish on my blog, but money is not everything to me, and this post is worth a lot to us; no amount of money would be worth the content of my understanding of Boun 100 Vanh, and special thanks to our local temples for doing such good job in explaining, and performing the ceremony of Boun 100 Vanh for my mom.
For most of us, we don’t normally think about death.When my mom passed, her body turned cold, I never gave much thought why?There’s a good reason why, each of our body are made up of 4 elements, such as earth, water, wind, and fire (everybody’s make up vary according to the region that you were born, which I posted this at Foods From Nature); when a person died, these elements left the body therefore turned cold.For a second there, it might seem ridiculous but it’s so true, and I’ve never thought of it that way before.For a traditional Laotian funeral service, there’s very specific detail as to how a body is being marched to the cemetery, or the crematory site.For some, you might remember this ‘4 Kone Homh (carry), 3 Kone Haih (parade), 1 Kone Nung Krah (sit on the mantle), and 2 Kone Nom Thung (lead the way).Of course, you don’t see this in most Laotian ‘traditional’ funeral services, but what we’ve common seen were the monks leading (seems the more, the better), followed by novice monks (same deal here, the more, the merry), white mai chee (white nuns), the casket, then followed by people (large crowd shown that a person was well respected by the Lao community.)There’re no specific in detail of 4, 3, 1, 2, and most people might not know what I’m talking about; but some might understand the basic terminology because of Lao wordings, but the true meaning of them, I think not.
After hearing the explanations from Pramaha Somsak this made perfect sense to me.The term 4 Kone Homh, why 4 people have to carry the casket, simple reason, the 4 elements that made up a person, which are earth, water, wind, and fire.Why 3 Kone Haih, parade of 3 people behind the casket, symbolize the basic reality of life, no matter who you are, rich or poor, we can’t escape the reality of ‘impermanent, suffering, non-self.’ 1 Kone Nung Krah, would appear to be the body in the casket, but it’s actually our spirit, each only has 1, which immediately leaves our body after we die. Lastly, Why 2 Kone Nom Thung, the casket should only be lead by 2 people, which represent Borb (sin) and Boun (karma, or good deed), where you go from here is lead by your Borb and Boun. So after a person die, there’s no need for the body, leaving it at home would only create problems for the living, this was the explanation given to us by Pramaha Somsak, seems cruel to think this way, especially when referring to my mom, but really, it’s so true.
Most Lao people would say Boun 100 Vanh is to Tum Boun (offering of charity to our love ones that passed), which is nothing wrong to think this way, even though there’s more to it.In Lao and Thai tradition, after a person passed, there’s a service at 7 days called Jack Kao, at 50 days as Boun, which it’s not commonly known to most people, and 100 days, which we called Boun 100 Vanh.As for the Thai belief, I read once that after a person died, its like a (long) sleep, s/he’d wake up at 7 days, 50 days, and 100 days and that’s why the Boun are held on these days; but Lao people don’t share this belief.As for my mom Boun 100 Vanh is a Lao tradition, a memorial service in remembrance of my mom, 100 days followed her death hoping that the Boun that we’re offering to her will lead her the way, if she is currently suffering, to help alleviate, and if she’s at peace, then to help her achieves even more.As for the point of view of foreigners of all the services that we did for my mom; which my mom’s hospice nurse Cathy nicely put it, ‘You all did her HONOR’; every time I heard those words, I can’t help to feel that what we did for my mom were very noble; her words were comforting to us, which managed to bring tears of mixed emotions every time.As to my mom, Cathy was her angel, my mom felt so blessed to have known her, even at her final moment, she spoke about going to visit Thailand with Cathy, which clearly shown that she was a special person to my mom, and we all feel the same way; thank you for bringing comfort to my mom at her final moment.