Well, I'm just getting home from the wake, and I now have more pieces of the puzzle. Melody's mom passed away last week, from what I understand. She died of a heart attack. She wasn't feeling well one night last week, but just thought she was coming down with something. She went to bed, but woke up the next morning feeling even worse. Chest pain, pressure, then vomiting. She finally told her son to take her to the hospital because she was in so much pain. By the time they got there, the doctors said it was too late and there was nothing they could do for her. They put her on a respirator and IVs, etc. She was there for 50 hours before she passed. Luckily, the whole family was there when it happened.
Melody's family was trying to figure out what to do for the services, as well as waiting for her uncle to come in from Hong Kong, which is why they are just now having the wake and funeral. I never knew until tonight that Melody has an older brother (22, I believe). She will now be left to live with this brother, and her very elderly grandfather, who speaks no English. I'm so very worried about her. Her parents were divorced, and apparently her father has absolutely no part in the lives of his children. Luckily, she has an aunt and cousins that live nearby, and I was able to talk to one of her cousins for a good part of the evening. She's 32, and has a 30 year old sister and brother. She and her sister are both police officers. I'm really hoping they will be able to provide Mel with the guidance she's going to need in the next few years.
It was so great to see all the kids there to support Mel tonight. I originally hadn't plan to attend the funeral tomorrow, but after seeing the kids together tonight, I realized that she really needs as many people around her for support as she can get right now.
I was feeling very out of place when we first arrived, especially since we were nearly the first ones there. There was one other mom there from school with her daughter, but the few other people were all family. The brother from Hong Kong, who doesn't speak English, and the sister who lives here, but whose English isn't so great. We weren't really sure what we should do, and I was so afraid we were going to do something to offend Melody's family. My girlfriend and I, both Catholics, did what we know, and walked right up to the casket and said a prayer. A few minutes later, another woman walked in, and bowed three times in front of the portrait that was next to the casket. Apparently, the Chinese don't approach the casket the way we do, and you bow three times to show your respect. I felt really foolish. But, later, Mel's cousin reassured us that we did not, in any way, offend anyone. She said her mom understands that everyone shows their respects in different ways. She said just the fact that we came tonight was a great showing of respect for the family, so that made me feel so much better. She also explained to us about these bowls that were in the lobby with what appeared to be bundles of paper. She told us that each bundle contained a piece of candy and a quarter. As you leave the funeral home, you're supposed to take one and eat the candy right away, then spend the quarter on food the same night. The candy, from what she could explain, is supposed to make you feel better after having to attend a wake, which is unpleasant. The quarter is supposed to represent good fortune for you. We felt a little bad asking her about it, because first, we didn't want to offend or seem disrespectful. Secondly, she had absolutely no idea at first what the bundles represented. She said she just made them because her mother told her to. But, after we asked, she actually went over and asked her mother about it so she could explain it to us. So, she was thankful that we asked because now she knows what they represent as well. As much as I love learning about other cultures, I just wish I hadn't gotten tonight's lesson under these circumstances.
The mom that was the first to arrive thought it would be nice if the kids could get together and present Melody with some sort of gift from her friends. Her daughter and my son's best friend put their heads together, and they came up with this. Melody is quite an accomplished musician, and plays several instruments (violin, guitar, piano, drums are all things she played in the school band, but I think there are probably a few more) so the kids decided to get a box of guitar picks, and have each of her friends write something on them for her. Some of the kids wrote just one word, some wrote little messages, and then they all signed their names. It seems like such a silly thing, but I think it will mean a lot to Melody. It's something she can just keep in a box, and then open it and look at them whenever she's feeling down. Or, she can obviously use the picks, maybe feeling her friends are with her in spirit. I don't know. I just hope it helps her in some way. What exactly should you do for a 14 year old girl who has just lost her mother? I haven't a clue.
We had planned to go to dinner after the services, and after we learned about the tradition of having to spend our quarters, we decided to go to one of our favorite Chinese restaurants for dinner. Another set of parents joined us, and we actually had a really nice time. We started out by toasting Melody's mother, Amy, with our tea. I'm a little nervous about tomorrow, because I'm not sure what to expect. I guess we'll just go with the flow.
If you're a pray-er, please say a prayer for Melody's family.
Holy snikey’s, an amazing chopped salad
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