A Small Tribute to “Ai Gu” (Daddy’s Elder Sister)

I was just about to get comfortable to study some languages again. Then, I find out my 90-something-year-old aunt died last night. Now, my brain is busy trying to remember something more concrete about her. Most of my memories of her are from my childhood. Those memories are pretty vague. :-(

This is the aunt who in her 80s would go to the casino by herself. (She doesn’t speak much English from what I recall.) A cousin of mine (my aunt is her grandmother) had told me this. My reaction at the time was “That’s just awesome”. :-)

Funny enough, the most concrete memory I have of my aunt (who is my dad’s elder sister) is from my dad’s funeral almost 18 years ago. His funeral hadn’t started yet. People were lingering around, then this lady comes in and starts wailing. It was my aunt. I’m pretty sure she startled both my brother and I. Later, my sister told me my other cousin had to tell my aunt to stop because she was scaring “the children” (lol). My sister then told me that the wailing is a Chinese tradition. Someone had to wail at the funeral so that the Chinese spirits could hear. It usually has to be someone really close to the deceased. Because this was my aunt’s younger brother’s funeral, she fit the role for that well.

Now, I’m wondering who will wail for my aunt.

Another Chinese funeral custom is the burning of “hell money”. This money supposedly pays off any spirits that block the passage of the deceased to the underworld/otherworld. I think it is similar to the Greek tradition of paying the ferryman so that the deceased can cross the river.

I wasn’t especially close to my aunt, but I recall her visiting my mom off and on during my childhood. I wish I knew more about my aunt, my mom, my dad, and my other relatives.  I wish I knew what it was like for them to leave their home country to immigrate to a new country. Language barrier and time seem to be the biggest obstacles in that regard.

It’s funny that when a relative dies, no matter how close you are or not (or how much you liked or disliked that person), you feel like a part of you dies with them. I think it’s the connection to the past and to a history that you never knew about that you end up missing. Next time I’m at my mom’s, I’ll have to get her to dig out her old photo albums. Pictures tell so much and yet so little, but they are better than nothing.

2 Responses to “A Small Tribute to “Ai Gu” (Daddy’s Elder Sister)”

  1. Donna Says:

    Cass,

    I am sorry for your loss. What a beautifully written tribute for your Aunt. Your words… “who will wail for my aunt?” are especially poignant. This was obviously of great importance to her.

    My heart goes out to you. Any loss of another human being, no matter what the age, is hard to bear. The longer a person lives on earth, it makes it harder to see them go, not easier. We just feel better in that they were able to live out the days of their youth in full.

    I hope that someone wails loud enough for the spirits to hear at her funeral 😉

    Love and Extra Hugs to You!

    Donna

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