Virtual Cemetery and the Tomb Sweeping Day

I clicked on the link and found myself staring at Nora who died in 1893; 228 virtual flowers were left for her. I clicked again. Now I was looking at pictures of a two-year old boy. I closed the page. Gosh, why am I here!

I ended up in the virtual cemetery by way of the Writers’ Almanac. I was reading the Memorial Day piece which said, “[The Memorial Day] has lately become a holiday for families to remember anyone they have lost (veteran or otherwise), to lay flowers at gravesites, and, in later years, barbecue, shop, and watch the Indianapolis 500. For those unable to travel to the graves of their loved ones, there are websites like, where one can create a cyber-monument and leave a “virtual” note or bouquet.”

This reminded me of the Chinese memorial day, which we call qing ming jie, otherwise known as the Tomb Sweeping Day. It is one of the four biggest holidays in our culture. It is always in April. This year, it fell on April 5th. Our parens are no longer in the best shape to climb the hill leading up to the cemetery. We children went to sweep the tombs this year.  Our cousin said we should leave at 7 a.m. or else we’d be stuck in traffic for half a day for the 40-minute ride…

The gate to the cemetery has no door.
Flower sellers were almost set up for business.
Many others were already ahead of us.
We passed the older plots that were filled years ago. Their pathways are wider and trees taller.
We found Uncle. The sun was now up, casting its warmth on the dews. This site faces the East and open water. Our cousins chose a good one for their dad.
The three husbands of my cousins washed every corner of the tomb with pure water. We offered fruits and chrysanthmums, and lit a cigaret for him. Uncle liked smoking. We couples took turns to light the incense, bowed three times, and set the incense in the burner. Cousin said, "Father, we are here to see you."
Uncle's neighbor got tea, wine, and rice.
I asked what these colorful tags are for. Cousin said some visitors mark "I have been here."
The tomb stones capped in white cloth are for those who died within a year.
Many others were doing the same thing for their loved ones that morning.
When we went down hill, many more are just coming up.

I never knew there is a virtual cemetery, nor did I accept this idea when I first heard of it. The first entry into the virtual cemetery was an eerie feeling. But now, after writing this piece, I am converted. I have not visited my grandpa and grandma for many years because they were buried in a different city. I would be happy to see them again, even if just virtually.


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