The promise being made, and must be kept at all cost. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about, if you have made a promise to your passed loved ones, whether it be your father, mother, grandparents, siblings, friends or relatives, you must grant his/her last dying wish. I know we kept our promise to our mom, she is resting in a better place now, and a place where she wanted to be.
I spoke to one of my friends and the last dying wish of his father was to go back to his birthplace after he passed away, then the burden falls on the children to get the ashes back home. This can be a very scary thing for those that have never gone back, especially if they were not familiar with the Lao tradition, or even the Lao language. If this sounds like you, you are not the only one.
As Laotian, it is our duty to honor our parents, and the most important duty is to have a proper burial for our deceased parent(s). My dad had the opportunity to go back and gave his deceased step mother a proper burial. Her ashes was at a beautiful temple in Ubon, Thailand, but the location of her ashes was not an ideal place because it was in the city, and most of her children live in the outskirt of town and can‘t visit her as often. Also the slot that houses her ashes was at the foot of the gate of the sim, it’s not a place where he wants his step mother to rest in peace. My dad decided that it’d be best to move her ashes to a temple near one of her sons’ house, the temple is not as fancy but it’s more convenient for everyone, and some of her deceased relatives’ ashes are there.
We asked the temple for permission to move her ashes to a different temple, and the monks performed a ceremony. This ceremony is called Suk Ani Jar, and there are 4 monks total, most ceremony involving a deceased person usually requires 4 monks, and it was once explained to me that it’s very much like a pillar of a house, you need 4 for the house to be stable, in a sense, the 4 monks are putting up the new house for the deceased, all houses need a good foundation.
We made the purchase of the monument (That) in advance, it costs 3,800 Baht ($108.80.) We donated 2,000 Baht ($57.26) to the temple for the location of the new monument (That), and gave each monk money in envelope called Phad Jai (personal money for monk) and this can be any amount. The monks at this temple only eat their meal once a day, so we prepared the morning meal for the monks, and young novice monks. As for the total expenses, it’s about 13,000 Baht ($372.40), this includes the monument (That), money donated to both temples for the ceremonies, meals for monks at both temples, and construction materials to complete the monument (That). I purchased a name plate made of soft stone that costs 450 Baht ($12.88.) I think in comparison to the US, this is a lot cheaper, it costs us $2,500 for my mom’s small monument in the US, not so much different from the monument (That) below.
Morning chanting before meal.
The ceremony is performed at the monument site.
We wrote the name of our passed loved ones on a piece of paper, then the monk chants and burns that piece of paper, this is a way to communicate with the spirit, it’s also a part of merit making ceremony for the deceased. The monk later on pour water to put out the fire, then uses that water to pour over the ashes.
We often refer to the cremated remains as ashes because it is ashes in the US, but it’s actually bits and pieces of bones in Thailand and Laos, and we perform a ceremony of cleaning the bones by pouring perfume water over it before putting it back into the urn.
The urn is wrapped with white cloth, then placed inside the monument, this is called Bun Jou Ka Douk Kao That (loosely translated as putting bones in monument), then the ceremony is complete. As for my dad, he feels that he has fulfilled his duty as a son.
This monument is in Thailand, but I believed that it would cost about the same in Laos. We left without seeing the final completion of the monument, but we purchased all the supplies for my uncle, and he called my dad and sister recently that it is completed.