The family awkwardly carry her casket from the funeral parlour to the waiting van while us four cousins continue to sing. We leave the artificial chill of that room we had sat in for days, while giant floral arrangements had multiplied around her and strangers had wandered in and out to pay their respects.
The heat of the Malaysian morning is dense and unrelenting. We walk slowly behind the van, still singing, our voices growing hoarse, sweat beading on our faces. Around the ramshackle buildings, along the potholed road, up the hill and left just a little to an empty tiled verandah. The pastor says more words, but he’s only really repeating himself now and I don’t hear them.
Silent funeral attendants in polo shirts hand each of us a rose, gathered from the many arrangements back in the parlour. When the pastor finally prays and is silent, we all stand, approach the coffin and lay our flowers together.
With barely a pause, when the last flower is laid, the attendants wheel the coffin into a small room, onto a conveyor belt and into the furnace. We go back to the parlour to get our things and the floral arrangements are already mostly gone, the chairs pushed aside, the room getting ready for the next family to sit in while they wait to lay their own flowers down.