Jenny Tay

The Sacred Task of Caring for the Dead

The Sacred Task of Caring for the dead should be a normal part of life
The Sacred Task of Caring for the dead should be a normal part of life

“In Cantonese village culture, there is a group of corpse handlers called the ng jong lo. When a death occurs, the ng jong lo come to the family home to wash the corpse and place it in a coffin. The corpse handlers are “living ghosts,”, dirty, unclean – a group who other citizens fear. Doors and windows close when they walk through the village. No one, not even priests, will hand them anything or speak to them directly. Children are kept away from the corpse handlers, who are believed to chew garlic to hide the stench of death and take perverse pleasure in their line of work. According to tradition, many are opium addicts who live together in the back of a coffin shop, the only men willing to take such degrading work.” – From the Guardian

When I tell people that I am a funeral director, I have never experienced this. Though people talk of death in harsh tones, when we engage in conversation, it has never been so. I feel honoured that people speak of my trade with respect. Yet I wonder why we have a shortage of young people joining us. There is more to be done!

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