Being Prepared

As we’re hoping for the best for our mother, we’re also preparing for the worst. After my father-in-law passed in 2012, I brought up the conversation with her. In case something happens to her, would she like to be buried or cremated? She never gave me a straight answer. She told me she would think about it. I reassured her that I was not wishing her death, I just wanted to be prepared so we can make plans for her.

I gave her examples to help her make her decision. For instance, my mother-in-law had already bought a lot right next to her husband. Except for the date she will pass, her plaque already had all of her information on it. Whenever we visited our father-in-law, we would hand out burning incense to the kids to post on their grandfather’s grave and they would always post some on grandma’s side as well. We just smiled about it. I also told her about my wife’s aunt’s and uncle’s wishes. They wanted to be cremated and their ashes to be spread on the mountain instead of in the ocean.

I revisited the topic with my mother over the years. One time, she told me she doesn’t want to be burned. At a different time, she wanted to be cremated and her ashes to be spread on the mountain. Still she didn’t give me a definite answer. She was still thinking about it. Even after she was admitted to the hospital less than two weeks ago, I asked her again and she gave me the same answer: still thinking about it.

It was clear that we have to make the decision for her. I talked to my sisters and they wanted me to make the decision. Because she mentioned she doesn’t want to be burned, I eliminated cremation. I told my sisters that once our mom passed, I would like to bury her body in Virginia. They were fine with it.

When we received the 3 am call from the doctor to go see her for the last time, I asked her once again if she had made a decision and yet she still told me she was still thinking about it. I told her that if she couldn’t make the decision, I would do it for her. I told her about my plan to bring her to Virginia and she said OK. I also made sure she knew that was just my plan, but she can tell me her wish any time. If I don’t hear from her, I will proceed with this plan.

As I was making phone calls to funeral homes, I asked my cousins if they have any recommendations. My aunt and uncle had passed years ago; therefore, they had been through the process. As we talked, they asked me about her resting place and I told them my plan about taking my mom to Virginia.

Half an hour later, my cousins called me back and made me an offer. When their dad passed away years ago, my aunt bought nine additional lots for the family. Her wish was for anyone in the family who would like to bury there. My cousins are now honoring her wish. I discussed the option with my sisters and they preferred it over taking her to Virginia. I won’t get to see her often, but my sisters can visit her often. I could not refuse the option because my mother will be right next to her older sister and brother-in-law. In Virgina, she would be lonely. I am so grateful for my aunt’s generosity. When she was still healthy and alive, she was sharp, decisive, and ahead of her time. I had so much admiration and respect for her business mind as well as her compassion. Thank you dì Hai. Please look out for my mom when she gets there.

I am glad we got that part down. We paid the funeral home a visit and went over everything from picking out a casket and a vault to making the arrangements to getting down the quotes. It’s a big ticket item; therefore, the staff has been very supportive, patience, and accommodating.

As far as religious rituals, I let my sister take charge of that part. Because my mother believes in Buddhism, we would have a brief service for her. She has been in contact with the monk and the temple.

Of course, we would rather not have to go through any of these, but we needed to be ready. Our hope is that she will continue to hold her own.