Qingming or Ching Beng is a Chinese festival marked by traditional visits to graves of loved ones or relatives. I remember how my atheist father used to observe Ching Beng almost "religiously" year in, year out. We used to visit his grandfather's grave in Selama, Perak and his mother's in Taiping. My mother used to do all the ceremonial stuff and he would merely handle the weeding and general tidying up around the graves.
To him it was a matter of filial piety; a mark of respect to one's elders in the Confucian tradition. It was part of the value system that he inculcated in us as his children and we somehow knew his message eventhough he never did verbalize his intentions.
Ching Beng was one of two Chinese traditions he observed; the other being the Chinese New Year Eve Reunion Dinner. The latter again had to do with the same value system that he professed.
Since his passing in 1985, Jeannie was the torch bearer when it came to Chinese traditional practices in our household, and come this 4th of April, Ching Beng will be without Jeannie for the first time in 22 years. It was Jeannie who determined the dates to visit the graves, the right Chinese characters to use on the burnt offerings; in a nutshell, everything! We miss her.
Just now I received a call from Krystyn. She had been out with Saiful to the Chinese prayer paraphernalia shop and they had been buying stuff for Ching Beng. This is the first time we will perform Ching Beng for Mummy and for Ah Khong, without Mummy. Krystyn assures me that Mummy has taught her enough and the things she is unsure of she knows where to seek advice and confirmation. As with Chinese New Year in February, it is Krystyn Cheah at the helm and I am utterly grateful to Jeannie for having brought Krystyn and JJ up the way she did.
On the date Krystyn decides we will perform Ching Beng I will be just like my father used to be. I will attend to the mundane while Krystyn and JJ take charge of the ceremonial requisites. It will be a day we honor and show respect to Mummy and Ah Khong. It will be a day we pay homage to them by visiting the place where their remains are preserved, eventhough we know they live forever in our hearts. It will be a day we assure ourselves by silently assuring them that we are capable of walking this path called life without them. It will be a day we wish them eternal peace as we reflect on the times we wished so fervently and in futile hope that they were still physically with us. It will be a day we are reminded of the impermanence and fragility of life; it will be a day of remembrance yet it will be another day of "letting go".
We went for Ching Beng on the 27th of March because we felt 27 is an appropriate number with regards to Jeannie. First it was to Sungai Besi where my father's remains are at the Chin Fatt Tze Temple and then to the Nirvana Cemetary in Semenyih near Kajang where we have put Jeannie's ashes.
It was a perfect day for Ching Beng; the sky was clear and it was a bright albeit very hot day.