In many Chinese households, April marks four weeks of Ching Ming festivities. Families buy all kinds of paper offerings, food and other goodies to take on their visit to their ancestral graves. There, they burn incense and pray for the souls of the deceased.
I recently visited a family grave at Bukit Brown Cemetery, one of Singapore's largest sites of Chinese graves. My great-great grandfather from southern China migrated to Singapore with two sons in his early days. He was born in 1855 and died in 1934. His two sons, Lim Nee Yam and Lim Nee Chip, were buried at the same cemetery until our family had to exhume them due to nearby road construction. We placed their ashes along with those of other family members at the Bright Hill temple in Sin Ming near Bishan.
The cemetery has a number of caretakers who clean the graves and help families locate their graves. The trees and bushes grow there very quickly, and apparently it's hard to recognise parts of the cemetery from one year to another. The caretaker was friendly and told me that his job was handed down from generation to generation, and that his parents had lived in a nearby village when he was a child. He remembered that I had been there a few years ago, and commented that my father's brother Soo Seng had been diligent in caring for the graves. He also remarked how Soo Seng's business had improved once he started visiting more regularly!
The cousin who took me along to the cemetery is the son of my fifth great uncle. Despite his busy schedule, he seems to have taken over the role of caring for our ancestral graves. I'm truly grateful for his devotion and dedication, and his respectful acts are a reminder not to forget those who came before us.