Reflections from a Thai funeral

It began with David’s usual custom of sending a birthday greeting to everyone who pops up on his Facebook account. Rung was our very first neighbor in Thailand and we have kept in contact over the years with regular visits and messages. He and his family welcomed us and cared for us in our very first location after language school. Back then we felt so inadequate as we tried to talk and share life with this family, and yet they kindly persevered with us, invited us in, came to our events, shared recipes, watched football and in all became our first real Thai friends.
So it was Rung’s 66th birthday. David sent his usual greeting, only to be quickly replied to with a personal message. Rung’s daughter shared that her dad had passed away only the day before. Thai funerals take place over a number of days with much ceremony and religious significance. We quickly looked at our calendar and worked out we could attend one of the evenings of merit making.
It is about a 2 hour journey back to Wiset and we made our way to the temple where the funeral was being held. We were early so we sat and chatted to Rung’s 2 grown children. These were the kids that attended our English clubs and came to our daughter’s birthday parties. I had quickly grabbed a handful of old photos to share of our early days in Wiset. The family passed these photos around with much joy in the memories, especially seeing photos of their dad.
One of the littlest children in my photos was cousin Petada. Not long before the funeral was to begin a lovely young woman appeared and introduced herself. “I’m Petada! And do you recognize my husband?” We looked at the man somewhat nonplussed…sorry we are not sure who you are! We sat down and the story unfolded. In my photos was 3 year old Petada, running around our first house in Wiset, playing with our daughter and her cousins. Oat, her husband, pulled out his mobile and pulled up a very old photo of my 2 kids sitting under an umbrella on our front patch of grass at our second home in Wiset, with a little Thai boy. As we talked about it, and as Petada and Oat had talked about it together, we realized that both these children at different times and in different neighborhoods had come to play in our home and spent time with our children. Both had good memories of the missionaries that lived next door, had come to our Christmas outreaches and holiday clubs and spent time playing with Legos and Barbies. They didn’t meet each other until attending teacher’s college many years later, and now Petada teaches English and Oat teaches Physics at the same high school.
The hall filled up and the monks arrived. The next hour was spent listening to the monks chant in Pali language, hiding their faces behind large round fans that say things like “birth, pain, ageing and death”, “there is no resurrection”, “there is no awaking from death”, “once you have gone you can’t return”.
The monks filed out of the hall and the mourners stood up, carrying a little bag of snacks and a drink to take on the journey home. We took photos with the family and held hands in sorrow, but I took with me a spark of hope that the love of Jesus experienced in the lives of small children would grow and bear fruit in the lives of these young adults. Each one of them met a missionary who was haltingly trying to share Jesus…now by the Holy Spirit may they meet Jesus for themselves. Please pray for fruit from seeds sown by many in children’s ministry here in Thailand.
Written by Tina Cannon

Tina is an OMF missionary serving in Bangkok, Thailand

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