Saturday, August 11, 2012

Burials and Legacy

I wrote this entry last August, but I found it hard to post. Now with Mother's Day coming up I felt the need to share some thoughts on my "mum".

Last weekend I visited many tombs in Xi'an, dedicated to impressive emperors who had slaves to command and wealth to bury with them. The most impressive was Emperor QinShiHuang, who had his people move mounds of dirt and build mini cities and a full army to protect him. Today tourists by the bus load are in awe of this accomplishment. He killed the artisans who did the work so no others could have such guardians in death.

Last week was the 4th anniversary of my mother's death. A few of us took notice and mourned in our way. You could say we have adopted Patricks Point in Northern California as her monument. It inspires a quiet awe but mostly a sense of peace in a state park on the edge of the Pacific. Which I think is appropriate for the way Julia lived her life. 

The Chinese believe you live on in a way and so they burn slips of paper that represent wealth, like money, sometimes paper houses, or paper cars. The emperors before Qin, and likely after, often killed their court to join them in death. Qin wanted something even more representative of his wealth to carry through time. Despite all his wealth, it took decades to create. It then took modern science and decades to reconstruct. Much of what he left has forever eroded with time.

Traditional Chinese in the countryside bury their dead and then visit the graves on grave sweeping day, where whole communities go to tend the graves of their  ancestors. Sometimes they don't even know whose grave, but they tend out of respect for those that came before. Modern Chinese urban dwellers must cremate their loved ones and perhaps buy a locker to store them in. There is not enough land to bury them all. A stark comparison to the lavish parkland that surrounds the Emperor's Tomb.

After losing my parents and step father I realized how ill prepared I was to cope. I am not part of a community with a grave site to tend. We have no family plot. We have no rituals that were passed down to us to mark the grieving period, show respect, ensure their soul is safely on the "other side".

I didn't give anything to my mother to take with her except my love. This is not something that will be found by generations in the future and wondered at. It will fade with my memories as with most of humanity. Patrick's point will stand for many thousands of years and then it will also pass into some other form. I wonder if those rocks struggle against destiny and strive to leave a legacy like humans do or if they are wise and accepting of their fate.  

I suppose I am part of my mother's legacy. But rather than a buried relic, I am an animated force in this world and struggling to make my own mark. My goal is to touch many lives and know more of the world than QinShiHuang ever knew existed.

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