My father in law died on September 26 2014, very early in the morning. My husband received the call, and I knew straight away what it was. We had not had much contact with him for a few years, but early morning calls never bring good news.
My husband, Agus, immediately called all 7 of his brothers and sisters to give them the news, and went in to action mode. We were the only family members in Bali at the time, so it was up to us to deal with all the details. There was no time for emotion, as we had to be practical. We showered and dressed and rushed to the village, to let the head of the village know what had happened. He informed us that there was a big temple ceremony taking place, so performing a cremation was not allowed, and would not be possible for several months.
We had a couple of cups of coffee, and discussed our options. We could rent a space in the morgue to keep the body, or bring it home, and keep pumping it with formaldehyde for who knows how long, or we could perform a cremation at a crematorium. We decided this would be the easiest way to go, but promised that we would do a formal ceremony in the village once the temple celebrations were over.
We arranged for the ambulance to bring my father in law’s body to the crematorium, and had a small, intimate ceremony there, and then went out to sea to spread his ashes. In my mind that was that.
Now, here we are eight months later, and the village is insisting on a formal ceremony. So yesterday we went out on a boat with a priest to call my father in law’s soul back for the ceremony. All the brothers and sisters arrived last night, and tomorrow is the big day.
For the Balinese, their lives revolve around their religion, and ceremonies play a very important part. There are several milestones marked during a Balinese person’s life, from birth, 42 days, 3 months, 6 months, tooth filing, wedding and then the most important one is the funeral. It is believed that the soul cannot rest in peace if there has not been a proper ceremony. That is why we are doing this.
My father in law was well loved in the community, and they are eager to pay their respects. He was a very unconventional man, he did not fit the typical Balinese mold, but religion and ceremony was very important to him, so this is to honor his memory.
“Bapak” was a very small, wiry man, who must have been at least 80 years old when he died. He could never give a straight answer about his age, which is pretty typical of the Balinese. They do not celebrate birthdays as we do.He had a cheeky grin and a great sense of humor. He was also a bit of a mad scientist, always experimenting, and among other things, he created perfume, organic pesticide and chocolate. He was great at ideas, and creating products, but not so good at the business side, and too trusting of the wrong people.
He never put down deep roots, preferring to travel around, staying in various places around Indonesia. He married a Javanese Muslim lady, and they both continued to follow their own religions. Their 8 children were encouraged to find their own paths, and now 2 are Christian, 4 Muslim and 2 Hindu. It was therefore very easy for me to blend in with the mix. He welcomed me with open arms, and was a wonderful father in law.
Bapak and I would sit and talk for hours, about anything and everything. It was him that helped take turns holding my babies at night while the rest of the house slept. He had a very calm manner and my kids felt safe with him. I miss his gentle nature.
Towards the end of his life, he grew restless, and went to live in the North of Bali, which meant we did not see as much of him, and were not there when he died. Tomorrow will be our chance to give him a proper send off.