When visiting this Chinese mausoleum, paying our respects to my wife's ancestors, I was struck by the sadness, the pictures of living people now residing in nothing more than a small vase, each in their own apartment at dusty Eternity Towers. The elderly held a stern and solemn stance defiantly staring back; while the young, especially the women, were vibrant and smiling, convinced of a full life that didn't actually lie ahead. In the picture above, this urn beautifully swathed in red cloth, was unique. No picture, no words, nothing to recall the person that resides there. Dust had gathered in its deep folds and there were no sign of any offerings. Nevertheless it remained a vibrant reminder of the once living person, despite being unvisited for perhaps decades, that must have shone brightly when in life.
Offerings of incense, fruit, beer (I like that!) and even cigarettes, where placed on a table and candles were lit. Buddhist prayers were sent as I watched from some physical and emotional distance. I'm an atheist and a little sad because of it. I wish I could believe in something that gave such comfort, but I don't. The tyranny of Catholicism ensured that. Next month it's two years since my own brush with death. I was told if I made it through the first year I had a good chance of a fair few more years, even a full life, despite the damage to my heart. I'm living in statistical and probability land and of course everyone dies anyway. Who knows? I remember four of the twelve attacks; the instantaneous loss of consciousness followed by the struggle back into the confusion of life. It's that suddenness, the black nothingness, that remains with me. Dying is easy, a little too easy. I realise I'm still coming to terms with what happened and that I have to remain positive. Visiting places like this just forces me to confront myself and attack feelings of negativity that swell up. I know that (at last) I'm doing all I can, eating better and exercising. I'm coming out of the denial that anything was really wrong. Now I have to accept the fact that yes, I might go in a blink of an eye, perhaps within the next five years, but then again I might also live to be a hundred! Just like everyone else in fact. You know, I quite like the idea of an unmarked vase swathed in vibrant red, no epitaph and unknown, except to those who placed me there.