Guest post by Donald Gross
(R.I.P Douglas Scott Arey)
Wow! This particular lecture had to be one of the most, if not the most informative lectures that I have ever had the pleasure of participating in. I would never have guessed in a hundred years that a Q and A during the lecture would be so diverting, especially since the field of inquiry was basically about death, in particular the death transitions and rituals that are conducted in Singapore.
It wasn’t just the lecture itself, it was the lecturer too. She wasn’t at all pretentious about anything. She avoided no questions, and answered them all with an acceptable response. It takes a very unique and special person to occupy the position that Ruth holds, and to be a female makes it even more special. She gave a very informative and interesting exposition. It was a very eye-opening learning experience to talk about the beliefs and customs of different cultures as they apply to the diverse parallels that lie between life and the afterlife.
Ruth was truly the personification of someone who came to give a good lecture on Death’s rituals and customs. From her black attire to her mysterious tones and emphases that she used to describe certain events, she really came prepared to give a lecture on the subject of making the transition from life to afterlife. I’ve never hear the subject of death be described so eloquently. Ruth’s presentation was conducted so well that it actually seemed rehearsed, even to the asking of our unsuspecting questions. She presented us with Singapore’s complete traditions and rituals in detailed descriptions, beginning with the death of the person straight through to the embalming process. She also spoke somewhat discontentedly on the government-ordered ten-year exhumations.
I also found the ceremonial rituals fascinating, especially when she was explaining the traditions regarding the Mardi Gras-like entertainment during the funeral, the color definitions, and the forty-day-long time frames of some of the funerals. I still don’t get the thing about why, if the ritual is performed incorrectly, the decedent becomes a hungry ghost.
Even the personal tidbits that Ruth shared with us were very informative as well as enchanting. It was the first time I have heard there should be no charge for a child’s funeral. I enjoyed how she shared her family’s involvement in the business, along with her being the only white person to ever be employed by the African American Staff of March’s Funeral Home. That was the icing on the cake.
In closing, I really enjoyed this lecture. I would really like to participate in a course based on Ruth’s book.