When Your Teelak Dies
A long time before I posted a story here It’s My Life whereby I sold everything and moved to Thailand to be with that special one. This is now a topic that I don’t believe is covered much here but I expect a few may respect it.
After moving I did my TEFL and was a teacher for a bit (if you can honestly call it that). Moved to a nice house in Hua Hin and was ready to start to look for work there. My teelak wasn’t feeling well so went to the hospital there. Suddenly she was in overnight and next day she had to go back to Korat where hospital is free.
She was meant to only go a couple of days. Then I couldn’t call her (she didn’t have power to answer the phone). I drank myself stupid worrying then finally took the bus up in to Isaan. It’s easy getting to Nakhon Rachasima. It’s the next bus that is the problem. Somehow, somebody recognised me and put me on the right bus. If I just got to the main village I could walk the next 20 km if needed. Nope, somebody found me again and a family member came and got me.
My Teelak had SLE and had been suffering with it for the last 7 years. Eventually it was too much for her body. The amount of medicine she was taking eventually shut down her kidneys. I left enough money for the hospital and for her to recover, not really understanding what was happening. To see her in hospital you went with 20 other people and it was confusing who everyone was and why you couldn’t speak with a doctor and understand what was happening. In reflection they are busy and everyone knew a lot more than me – as in she is finally dying.
Anyway, she finally dies… Her brother comes and finds me at Hua Hin (there is very limited English now). He has a car and we go back up to the village. There is a big alter set up under the house and many people. I pay my respects to her parents. I sit with her father. He can speak 3 words of English and I can speak about 5 in Thai. Then after a while I realise it’s not an alter – it’s the actual coffin.
It works out when Thais die they must be rushed back home. The ambulance costs a fortune as it cannot stop and money is throw out the window at any intersection for ghosts to pick up so they stop and don’t come and get her. The family then looks after the body for couple of days, keeping 24 hours watch and playing music so loud the house shakes. This is all to keep the ghosts away. You’re trying to stay sober but everyone is putting beer in your hands. The music just never stops. People are cooking food from 4 – 5 AM. I cannot say how many monks I met as they all look the same after a while. I have to sneak out the back (not easy when you’re the only farang) and go down the farm and sleep in one of those little huts on the rice farm. That's the only way I can get any sleep…
Then the actual funeral; nobody can tell you anything; you sober up enough; I’ve brought the suit and tie, so are dressed properly which shocks everyone. First a Thai friend becomes from behind and punches me each side of the ribs! I nearly yell out “$%#%” in the middle of everything. People are then prodding you and push you forward; I have to say or give something to the monks or somebody important. You just don’t know what but try and show all possible respect. Feet the right way, sitting or standing but not too tall. You really have no idea what is going on. There are young, traditional dancing girls to welcome her to paradise. Somebody then starts letting off guns right behind without warning. Again, you nearly yell out!
You then have a procession to the local monastery to burn the body. This part I will leave out. All I’ll say is you are well and truly sick of monks at this point and I’ll kill myself before I watch that again.
In the end you're shattered, have been drinking for X days, cannot find sleep, don’t understand what’s happening, or why she has died, don’t really know what things should be costing but pay anyways, cannot eat Isaan food so you’re hungry. It is not a good place to be when you’re on your last legs. Then you are meant to be happy the whole time as she has gone to paradise and if you’re sad her soul may remain to look after you. Your last legs are at this point just straws.
Then get to Hua Hin and the f#%$king landlord who was told everything has decided to lock me out of the house; I have 5% battery left on phone and am surround by soi dogs and he’s not answering his phone. At this point you really want to hit somebody but it's Thailand and anger doesn’t solve anything. The more polite you can be, the quicker things will be resolved.
Anyways, that is how one chapter of my life ended. There was the 100 day party which is another story. The family was well looked after. All arrangements finally made although different to what I expected. I tried to set her daughter up financially but it was spent on the 100 day party. What is important to us is maybe not so important to others.
Ending… You only live once. Don’t be too judgemental here and characterise people; learn patience; and if you find that someone special, remember it every day and cherish it as you can lose them forever.
Very sad, and very sorry to hear about the loss of your darling.
Without wanting to appear insensitive, funerals in the West and funerals in Thailand are very different affairs and while there is a lot to be said for the way a lot of people appear to enjoy themselves at Thai funerals, I don't know quite how I would feel if it was the funeral of someone who was close to me and some people were yahooing. It's got to be tough to deal with…