“When person first dies it’s incredibly important to have a body,” she said. “You have a wake for a whole day or more. The body is cleaned and dressed up in their best clothes and all the friends and relatives come around to pay respects. Then after that, there is a funeral procession and everyone goes to the grave site.”
In China, grieving families even hire professional wailers to join in the funeral procession. At the grave, families burn paper money so their dead family member has money to spend in the afterlife.
“That’s why it is so horrible,” she said of not having a body to bury. “Because in Chinese tradition, death is not just the end of a person’s life, they are going to another world and the family continues to maintain our relations with our ancestors. We live among them all the time and even seek their help.”
The Malaysia Airlines incident increases a sense of disruption and insecurity. “There is no sense of certainty,” said Chen. “You haven’t had the opportunity to pay respects from the passing of this world to the world of the dead. You don’t get to acknowledge and respect their passage into the afterlife.”