Back In Taiwan To Say Farewell To Su Beng
It’s been four years since my last visit to Taiwan, which is quite a long gap. I had planned to make a trip back to Taiwan for Su Beng’s 101st birthday (on November 9, 2019). But my plans suddenly changed when I learned how much his health had deteriorated in September. By then, Su Beng was unable to speak or to eat by himself. He was being fed and was eating mostly soft, liquified or pureed foods.
I immediately booked a flight back to Taiwan hoping to see him again. Unfortunately, the day after I booked my flight, I found out from Su Beng’s assistant Bin Hong that the doctors were saying that his state was touch and go. I was beside myself when I realized that I might not make it back in time to see him. But I told her if it’s his time to go, he must go and that I hoped that he wouldn’t have to go through any prolonged pain and suffering. Then I prepared myself for the worst, in case I wouldn’t be able to make it back in time before he passed.
Su Beng passed away on September 20th and my flight out to Taipei had been set for September 22nd.
I arrived in Taipei on September 24th and stopped by to pay my respects at the place where a memorial for Su Beng has been set up from September 24-October 12th. Daily visitation hours are from 8:30am-8:00pm. For anyone wishing to pay their respects, see my previous blog post for full details. Before Su Beng was cremated on September 28th, I stopped by there a few more times. There I saw many familiar faces and we traded stories about Su Beng. It’s times like this- at weddings and funerals- that the real stories about our loved ones are shared. Needless to say, the first couple of days back in Taiwan leading up to Su Beng’s cremation have been quite emotional.
Nothing ever fully prepares you for someone’s death, until something really makes you feel the finality of it, or brings certain memories to surface.
When I saw Bin Hong in Taipei she told me that before Su Beng passed away at the Taipei Medical University Hospital, he was surrounded by twenty-something close friends and associates who wanted to be at his bedside in his hospital room, to be there with him in his last moments to “send him off.” She said that right before he passed, he opened his eyes wide, looked around at everyone in the room, then closed his eyes and left.
At Su Beng’s cremation his two assistants, several old friends and relatives first took turns bowing at an altar with offerings in order pay their respects to Su Beng.
Several close friends and associates eulogized him. They all wore jeans in homage to Su Beng who always wore a denim shirt and jeans- that was his uniform.
Then all of the guests in attendance were given a chance to walk up to the altar to bow and pay respects to Su Beng. The service concluded with guests being invited to place a flower in Su Beng’s open casket before he was actually cremated. I was told that much of the “ceremony” that happened at Su Beng’s cremation was not traditional, which is not entirely surprising. Su Beng was anything but traditional. He was also an atheist, so one might wonder what he would think of all the “fuss” made over his death at his cremation. Since he had no immediate surviving family, many of the guests, who consisted of close friends, associates and distant relatives were allowed to watch his casket go into the cremator. That’s when I lost it. I suppose seeing his casket being put in to the cremator made everything seem so final.