103 Lunar Years

My grandfather died, so I stopped updating the blog to take a break emotionally. Here is an adaptation to a thread I posted on Twitter.

My 103-year-old (Chinese Years) grandfather passed away and it reminded us that advance directives are important.

As far as my dad and aunt knew, he wanted a simple and basic Chinese funeral with as few rituals as possible. However, their half brother and their elder sister (who has lost a mother and all her children thus very full of grief).

They decided to run the funeral and chose not to include my dad and aunt who were younger than her but actually older than their half-brother. As a result, they got the “cheapest” funeral service that did not offer any food except for disgusting RO water and repacked peanuts. They DID NOT plan any actual food or drinks for family friends and guests.

Eventually it resulted in my nephew binging on peanuts and falling sick in the process. My aunt and dad had to buy actual food and drinks on our own so that our guests would not get dehydrated and gastritis.

Then there was the freeloaders from several Chinese associations who hang banners around the canopies. They proceeded to pester my family to pay them the equivalent of $1000-$2000 for shitty banners. These people were rude gangsters who acted like loan sharks.

If my family had actually hired a reputable funeral home, food, drink and hosting would have been handled. Instead we see busloads of strangers who were only there for free food, food that were meant for actual friends of my late grandfather and actual family friends. That funeral home was actually preferred by my grandfather when his first and second wives passed before him.

This cheap funeral staff were rude, chainsmoking and walking into our house with their shoes on while being defiant when told off. I am sad and embarrassed for my grandfather. If he organised his own funeral, this would have not been a disorganised disaster.

If my grieving elder aunt had not let her half-brother and sister-in-law take advantage of her and played cliques, my other aunt and father would have planned the event according to my grandfather’s wishes within budget.

This feels more like Game of Thrones than a family reunion. My aunt claimed that they wanted to pack doggy bags of food BECAUSE SHE DID NOT WANT TO WASH PLATES. When my younger aunt provided actual food, my siblings and mum did the dishes.

Elder aunt did not even think to ask for help from us! We’re family! A family of 10 or so children of my grandfather with many more now adult children! Why couldn’t she have ASSIGNED TASKS? Say “this family gets catering, this family does the dishes, etc”.

We were struck by grief, that is true. But this was a time for our family gets to gather and catch up. Instead it became a battle for meaningless power and being cheapskate.

PLEASE anyone reading this, learn from my family’s mistakes. Plan for your death and don’t let superstition make it a scary taboo topic.


2 thoughts on “103 Lunar Years

  1. I’m so sorry this happened!
    Something similar happened at the funeral of my boyfriend Tony’s grandfather on his Dad’s side.
    The grandmother had died prior to him and so it was left to the four children to sort the funeral and affairs out. The eldest son Mick wasn’t interested in having to plan it as he lived further away and is struggling with hearing loss so just not practical for him to do it. The son who had still been living in the house with his dad (Les) wasn’t mentally capable of handling it. He has bad thyroid issues and refuses to take medication so suffers with psychosis and mania etc (so basically bipolar disorder) as a result. Between their dad dying and the funeral, he had stripped the house (which was a council property) down to plaster and sold a ton of stuff which was meant to be divided up in the will. He threw away all the photos in frames which made it distressing for the family when arriving at the house later for the wake. Anyway, that’s why he didn’t organise the funeral – not really capable. Tony’s dad was more than willing to do it and sort everything out, but his sister Sue insisted on doing it. Despite being deaf but refusing any assistance with her deafness. So she would go to appointments alone to arrange things and got totally fleeced by people who didn’t care and took advantage of the situation. When it came to the eulogy, she wrote a fanciful depiction of their dad’s life (describing how gentle he was, despite being a boss of a factory who settled disputes by challenging the employees to fist fights outside… Times have changed!!). Tony’s dad kept trying to offer assistance to get it sorted out but she had to do it herself.
    Sue also insisted on being the will executor and got her dad to change the will shortly before he died to leave everything to Les, who didn’t work. Noone else knew she’d made him change the will so the time comes, everything gets given to that one son, then she complains when she can’t have her mum’s jewellery which had previously been left to her in the mother’s will as an “after my husband dies” directive. Tony’s dad was due, in the old will to get his dad’s signet ring but he couldn’t get that and it turned out that Les had already sold it down the market anyway.
    The only part of the funeral which went according to Tony’s grandfather’s wishes was having the service at the old church and being buried in the (luckily prepaid) plot next to his wife.
    The whole thing was so sad because of how badly it had all been sorted. The wake was weird with Les telling stories about the time they went on holiday to a haunted house as kids, an account which wasn’t true in the slightest according to the elder brother Mick – they had never been on holiday to a house (always went to the same caravan park) let alone a haunted one! Poor Les believed it though. He was sat there in his pyjamas which he put on the moment he got back despite there being guests to talk to. So that was odd. It was awful for Tony’s dad who had grown up there to see the house so destroyed by what his brother had done to it. The whole thing was just crap and not what his dad would have wanted at all.

    Oh yeah and the proceeds of the will? Les managed to spend it all within 2 months and had nothing to pay rent with. Sue gave him some money to begin with, but had to stop as she could not afford it (especially after paying funeral costs which she thought would be paid from the will, but that wasn’t in the changed version she pushed through). Noone knows where Les is now. He could still be squatting at the house (he wasn’t able to inherit it as it was a council house and he wasn’t a registered occupant in terms of who was meant to benefit from the property and of course he refused to contact the council because of paranoid delusions). It had been so many years of them trying to sort things out for Les but him refusing to get medication for his thyroid and just not accepting it meant that they had to give up for their own mental health.

    The whole thing is just so sad as it all could have been avoided if there had been an advanced directive to sort the funeral and will out. In the end the whole thing was a shambles and I think in some ways that made it the hardest funeral Tony had to attend (he’s now lost all grandparents). Everything about it was done on the cheap but cost a ridiculously large amount of money. Because people will take advantage of others even at the saddest times. There wasn’t even enough food for the children in attendance. Not as bad as peanuts, but just a total failure to sort out quantity. There weren’t even enough plates for everyone (he was popular down the local pub so tons of people turned up for the service and wake) because Les had got rid of most of them. The food was the weirdest combination – like a cheeseboard fully of stinky cheeses and no bread or anything to go with it. Wtf? And a “salad” which was mostly raw onion. Covered with a dressing that a lot of attendees couldn’t have due to allergies. I had a few bites of a chicken drumstick before noticing that it wasn’t totally cooked through. Gave up after that!

    So yeah, advanced directives and not letting anyone get you to change your will last minute.

    • I’m sorry that happened to you. This experience makes me feel like I should pursue being a mortician, instead of paying for an arts or sewing degree, I want to start an apprenticeship at the reputable funeral home I mentioned in my tweets.

      I think I should adapt several more Twitter threads into blog posts, thanks to your comment.

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