“Close the windows. Lock the doors. Take everything out of this room, so there is nothing to trace her back here. If at night you see the shadows moving, you hear the doors shaking, you feel the wind blowing from the inside, do not provoke her.” These were the commands of Mama, a superstitious and spiritual Buddhist. The night after my grandmother died, my brothers and I were instructed to tear apart her room. With the bed thrown out and the furniture rearranged, my grandmother’s room looked like a stranger’s—unrecognizable to the comfort of our eyes.
It is not as though we did not love our grandmother, and therefore did as we were told because we wanted to eliminate all sources of her existence in our lives. Actually, it is the exact opposite. According to the particular Buddhist beliefs that my grandmother and Mama both shared, when a close loved one dies, the family living with the deceased must redirect the lonely spirit’s pathway towards his or her real home. Traditionally, a Chinese spirit’s real home belongs to the First Son, but since her physical home belonged to us (the Second Daughter), we had to fulfill the duties of leading her back to the home of Mama’s eldest brother.
I could not understand why our grandmother’s spirit could not just live with us. We had provided her with a safe home—a home filled with happiness and fond memories. Mama told me then that our grandmother’s spirit will forget the memories of us, because we are not destined to be her real family. We had to remove traces of her life in our home anyway, for her spirit will continue following the scattered memories of her life until she finally finds her real home.
After learning this, I wanted to reject the Buddhist notion about the afterlife. I tried to search for answers to the afterlife, but came to the realization that every religion has its answers, every culture has its beliefs. How, then, could every answer be correct? Logically, every religion and every culture could not be right, yet each person believes in his or her own religion so dearly. Throughout the lives of our human minds, we all search for answers to the unknown. I did not want to accept my family’s religion because I did not want to throw away years of memories and eventually forget her. That is when I stopped searching. I stopped searching for answers. I let my imagination flow, I let my hopes rise, and I let my heart settle. I accepted the mysteries of death, the unanswered truths that can only unfold to the human mind when the time actually arrives. Death is a mystery, this I believe.
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