父の納骨 Burial of My Father’s Cremains

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父の三周忌の法要と納骨が行われたこの日は、母と従兄のS兄ちゃんにとって、肩の荷が下りた忘れられない日になったようです。2年間背負った大きな重い重い肩の荷です。

父は生前、五島のご先祖様のお墓に入りたいとよく言っていました。子供は一人娘の私だけ、つまり父の代で家系が途切れることになります。ですから余計にその気持ちが強かったかもしれません。でも、実際に父が亡くなり、現実に直面すると、自分の中で様々な疑問がわき上がってきました。

この小さな町で育った私にとって、お墓参りやお寺に行くことは、生活のごく自然な一部でした。親戚や知り合いに不幸があっては、火葬、お葬式、埋葬に立ち会ったものです。お盆になると、ご先祖様の魂が帰ってくるとして、仏壇を飾り付け、ご飯や果物をお供えし、お墓に灯籠を明かしに行きました。お盆には、都会に出ている人たちがたくさん帰って来て、普段は静かな町が賑わうのが楽しみでした。

でも、過疎化が進行し、お盆の賑わいも年々細っていきました。日本のどこの田舎でも同じですが、人が生まれ育った町からどんどん出て行くにつれ、常にご先祖様とともにある生活は失われていきました。都会に出た人の中には、田舎のお墓を引き上げて、新しく都会に作る人もいますが、決して安くすむことではありません。面倒を見られない人だってたくさんいます。こうして田舎には、無縁仏となって朽ち果てていくお墓が増えてきています。私も例にもれず故郷を出て、母も然り。父を故郷に埋葬したところでお墓参りもできません。もちろん父もそれを承知の上で、骨さえ入れてくれればいい、後は放っておいてくれと、常日頃言ってはいましたが。

さらに、私の中には、慣習や場所に縛られない弔い方があってもいいんじゃないかとの思いがありました。特にアメリカに来てからは、人々が形式にのっとるにしろ、のっとらないにしろ、自分なりに亡くなった肉親達を偲んでいる姿を見てきました。何よりも、ご先祖様のお墓は満員で、手を加えないことには父の入る余地はないし、いくら父が残してくれたお金で賄うとしても、改装にかかる費用はバカになりません。

そうかと言っていい方法があるわけでもなく、悶々とするのみの私でした。母も悩みに悩みましたが、父の遺志を尊重したいという思いから、とうとうお墓の建立を決意しました。工事に関わってくれたのは、五島で商売をしているS兄ちゃんと、奥さんのN姉ちゃんです。父の甥であるS兄ちゃんは、以前、父に、その時が来たらお墓をよろしくと頼まれたことがあるそうです。そのことは、父が亡くなってから知ったのですが、じきじきに頼まれたとあっては、S兄ちゃんも相当責任を感じたに違いありません(^_^;)。

まず土葬されていたご先祖様9体が掘り起こされ、あらためて火葬が施され、お骨は3つの骨壺にまとめられました。それを地中に埋め、その上に新しいお墓が建てられ、父の遺骨は墓石の下にある納骨堂に納められることになっていました。完成に至るまでのS兄ちゃんとN姉ちゃんの苦労を思うと、ひたすら頭が下がるのみです。

小雨降りしきる中での納骨式では、母をはじめ親戚の方々が、それぞれいろいろな形で父との別れに立ち会ってくれました。もう一人の従兄のM兄ちゃんは、お寺での法要の後、いつの間にかTシャツと短パンに着替えていて、濡れながら遺骨を納めてくれました。こうやって多くの人に見守られて、ようやく望みどおり、故郷の海のそばでの永眠がかなった父のことを思うと、これが最良の選択だったのかもしれません。

この2年間は私にとって、とても貴重な時間となりました。親の死に直面し、いろいろと迷い悩んだなかで、生や死に関する自分の考えがまとまったような気がします。宗教のとらえ方、死んだらどうなるのか、自分が死んだらどうしてほしいか、様々なことに対して、自分なりの答えを出すことができるようになりました。

納骨の後、ドラゴンがタイミングよく聞いてきました。「マミィは死んだらどうしてほしい?」もちろん即答できましたよ!

Burial of My Father’s Cremains

This day became an unforgettable day for my mother and Cousin S-nichan.  On this day, they finally had a load lifted off their shoulders.  The big load they had carried for two years.

My father used to say he wanted to have his cremains buried in the family grave on Goto Islands.  I was his only child which meant the direct line of the family’s descendents would be terminated at his generation.  I suppose this made him more attached to the idea of being buried with his ancestors.  Now that he had actually passed away, we had to face this issue, with various questions arising in my mind.

For me, who grew up in this small town, it was a natural part of life to visit family graves and the temple.  I attended quite a few cremations, funerals and burials when a relative or family friend died.  During the Bon Festival when the spirits of the dead were believed to come back, we decorated our Buddhist altar, presented meals and fruits, and went to the grave to light lanterns.  Many people who moved large cities came back for the Bon Festival.  The quiet town became very lively that time, which I kind of liked.

However, depopulation kept going and the Bon’s festivity has diminished year after year.  I believe this is a phenomenon that can be seen in any rural area in Japan.  As more and more people leave their hometown, lifesyles being very close to their ancestors have been lost.  Although some people have their family grave cleared up and have a new one built near where they live now, there are many people who cannot afford new graves.  They are really expensive!!  Thus, an increasing number of graves in rural towns are left to decay without anybody taking care of them.  I am no exception being among those who left their hometown.  So is my mother.  Even if we buried my father’s cremains there, we could not easily visit his grave, although he, knowing this very well, always said all he wanted was to be buried and left alone later.

Moreover, I had come to think that there should be some other way to respect one’s ancestors without getting stuck in customs or a particular place.  Especially since I moved to the U.S., I have seen people in remembrance of their beloved family members in their own way, whether following a fixed style or not.  On top of everything, in order to bury my father’s cremains, the family grave site needed to be remodeled.  The site was already full, leaving no space left for him.  Although the money my father had left us would cover the cost, the financial part was too large an issue.

I was in agony without any better idea.  My mother also had a very hard time making up her mind, but she finally decided that my father’s wish be fulfilled and a new grave be built.  Cousin S-nichan who has his own business in the town and his wife N-nechan helped in every single step of the  remodeling.  My father had once asked Cousin S-nichan to help renew the grave when the time came.  I learned this after my father passed away but I’m sure S-nichan felt a big responsiblity, being asked directly by him.(^_^;)

The work started with digging up nine bodies of the ancestors who had been buried without being cremated.  They were cremated, put together into three urns and buried again under the ground.  The new grave was built on top of it and my father’s cremains were to be put into an ossuary right under the gravestone.  I could not thank S-nichan and N-nechan enough for all the effort they had put in.

At the burial ceremony in awet weather, my mother and every relative showed various way to say goodbye to my father.  Another cousin of mine, M-nichan, appeared in a T-shirt and shorts.  I had no idea when he had changed from his formal wear after the memorial at the temple.  Without caring to get wet, he helped put the urn in.  Surrounded by a lot of people warmly watching, my father finally eternally settled in his hometown by the ocean just as he had wished.  After all, this may have been the best thing to do.  

The last two years turned out to be a very precious time for me.  Facing the passing of my own parent, I gave much thought on various things.  I sometimes felt lost or troubled.  Finally I think my view of life and death has taken shape; what is my view on religions, what happens when one dies, what I want to be done when I die, etc.  Now I have my own answers to these questions.   
  
After the burial, dragon threw me a timely question.  “What do you want me to do when you die?”  Of course, I was able to give him a quick answer!!
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by danceofdragon | 2010-08-03 05:36