Years ago we built a crematorium at Wat Opot out of necessity, because no one wanted to cremate the bodies of our AIDS victims. It was a big investment but we had no choice. Several hundred of our patients were cremated in the oven and because most families were poor, oft times they were done for free. When COVID came along we reopened the crematorium and by the time the crisis was over had done nearly 200 more cremations, and although we were paid $100.00 per cremation from the COVID funds, plus at times some extra from the families, it was a lot more work, because many families were not allowed to attend the service and we had to do everything ourself. I had no idea that some 20 years later it would still be in use… although not used nearly as much, at times we are still asked to do the cremation for the homeless and for suicide victims. We have become known for our willingness to assist families of suicide victims who often find it hard to find others to help them because of the fear of angry spirits that may linger after the cremation.
There have been a lot of changes over the years and what was once just a place to burn bodies has now become a Memorial with frequent visitors coming, especially during the Holidays, to honor their loved ones. Last week we were asked to cremate the body of a young women with no immediate family… and just yesterday the El Lai family came by to honor a family member who died during the COVID pandemic but because of the quarantine they could not be here than. They came with gifts of gratitude as well for the old man they had been told did the service.
It is very uncomfortable for me in these situations but at the same time it gives me great joy in knowing that Wat Opot is more than just another NGO… it is a Community that will be remembered long after I am gone.
The video below was made for the families that could not be here because of being quarantined.
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