Getting a call in the late evening hours, to perform a service I haven’t done for some time, caught me off guard. I wanted to just say no and go back to bed but the more they explained their situation, the more I realized that saying no was not an option.

A suicide by hanging had just happened in our community and the family needed to have the body cremated right away because in the Khmer culture it is taboo to place the body of the victim in a house overnight. Our crematorium is the only one in the area, but we haven’t used it for quite some time and there was no wood or charcoal on hand. I gave in to their request but told them they would have to supply the wood and kerosene.

I got dressed and reluctantly headed for the crematory thinking it would all be over in about an hour. I woke two of the older boys to help with the process and assist with translating instructions to the family. Fortunately, one of the community leaders had been notified and met us at the gate.

The guys helped clean out the oven while we waited. It was full of cobwebs and rats, and who knows what else, had made their home inside.

The family members arrived from Phnom Penh at about 10:30 PM and I thought I could still get to bed by Midnight but…

after the Monks said their prayers, it was decided that the cremation could not be done until after Midnight because it was a Buddhist Holiday.

And so we waited until the day was done and a new one had begun to start the fire.

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