A Korean Funeral:
Monica watched from the back seat of a taxi as the Won brothers carried Won Chanyu’s coffin out of the house followed by Father Won and the rest of the close family members and then the guests. The brothers stopped at the gate and lowered the coffin three times, signaling Chanyu’s last trip out of the house. The coffin was placed in a black hearse. Once the back door was closed, everyone went to their cars and followed the hearse as closely as traffic would allow towards the hills. Monica followed the procession into the foothills and into a deep gorge. The family cemetery came into view. A ten foot stone wall surrounded a well manicured patch of grass and tomb stones. Fresh flowers had been placed at every grave and tucked in baskets at the entrances of two mausoleums side by side at the upper end of the tiered cemetery. A pedestal separating the mausoleums held a carved granite Buddha lying on its side overlooking the cemetery. A paved path separated grave stones from more elaborate crypts and the two mausoleums.
As guests and family arrived, they went to a cart inside the gate and picked up banners of dragons and phoenix and carried them as they walked on the circular path in both directions and the family walked straight up between the graves behind the coffin as it was carried by the brothers to an open freshly dug grave.
Monica could hear the guests as they began to sing together and she got out of the taxi. She walked away from the road out on to a ridge shoulder of brown grass and observed as a man blessed the grave site. Father Won arrived behind the coffin and did an elaborate bow to the empty grave. The brothers lowered the coffin into place and simultaneously bowed and stayed bent at the waist as Father Won picked up a handful of dirt and let it fall over the coffin. He grabbed another handful of dirt and dropped it in. Monica watched as Mother grabbed dirt and dropped it in followed by the brothers and Hegin and Lu. Family members, uncles, aunts, and the Cho family clan did the same and then everyone else at the funeral took their turn in a parade of song and mourning returning to their position in the circle, banners blowing lightly in the afternoon sun.
The brothers carried a tombstone on sticks to the head of the grave and set it in a hole. As the song came to a close, Father Won looked up to the hillside and saw the woman dressed in black standing alone as a breeze sent undulating waves across the face of the grassy slope. He wondered who she was.