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Monday, 5 February 2018

For Absent Friends


I'm writing this for those of our friends who could not attend Kyung's service.

The Macquarie Park Cemetery Complex is large. There's sections for all faiths – a niche wall for Jews, the curious obelisks and broken pillars favoured by Protestants, angels and crosses for the Catholics, and even stelae and burrows for Daoists, Buddhists, and so on. The grounds slope gently down to the discreet main gate, and all around the parklands are dotted with pavilions, fountains, and stately mature gum trees, a ring of which also cuts off the whole complex from the noise and ugliness of the industrial parks and main road. Apart from the formal monuments, there are little personal acts of devotion everywhere. In random trees, on the footings of graves, there are small, handmade tributes – a paticular bouquet, obviously renewed daily, a carved bird, a hand crocheted heart with the single letter 'M'. It is a nice place to sleep for a while.

Kyung was farewelled in the Magnolia Chapel. I'd been there before. It's a nice enough space, with a curtained area at its head for the catafalque, screens all around, and those curiously uncomfortable seats peculiar to funeral homes. When the service started I immediately learned two important things. One was that I have never over the course of our decades of friendship pronounced Kyung's name correctly. And the other was that Kyung's family had no idea just how many friends, or just how well loved by so many, their only son was. I like to imagine Kyung laughing mischievously about both those things.

The service was pretty well entirely in Korean. It was clear that the family really only expected it to be themselves. It was also deeply Christian. All the while when the pastor was asking Jesus to take Kyung into his arms, I thought about how my militantly atheist friend would have reacted to that. Part of me thinks he would have hated it. But then, he loved his father, and I think he would have wanted them to do the thing which gave them most comfort. Either way, I think that once he'd thought it through he would have found it hugely funny – I never met another man capable of enjoying irony quite so much as Kyung was.

The service was open casket, which meant that we were all able to say our last farewells face to face. When the family invited us to do so, it was with real satisfaction that I noted that the queue went down the aisle and practically out the door. A mourning band fitted in size in some small measure to the size of his soul. I think his family were pleased too. I hope they were. They'd laid Kyung out in his finest. They didn't shave him, but just trimmed the Fu Man Chu he loved to sport. I liked that very much – Kyung will go to his long home fitted out as he always wanted to present himself to the world.

I ran into Jezza in the queue afterwards, when a long long stream of people lined up to pay respects to his dad. Jezza talked about Kyung's presence of mind, and his consideration for others. "Only K-Dog," he said, "would have had the kind of presence of mind to pull safely off the road." He was right.

When all was done, we all went our separate ways into that bright Australian sun. Some went to The Ranch, to pour a libation and remember. I suspect many, though, were like me – forced to re-enter the living stream of the day and work. But either way, you all should know that Kyung was sent off in real style, by dozens of people who loved him. I think he would have wanted all his friends to have the satisfaction of knowing that.

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