It was late evening and I had already undressed for bed and was just about ready to settle in with a cup of coffee while I watched the latest news, when the phone rang. A young Monk from another Pagoda had committed suicide and the police were asking if we could do the cremation. Our last cremation was just a little over a month ago for one of our own and because of sickness I had not been back to the crematorium since then, but we always keep it ready for just such an occasion. I told them we would do it and got dressed again and called the team. We cleaned the area the best we could in the dark and then sat down for what would be a two-hour wait for the body to arrive.

Because the family lived some distance away it was decided to wait until the following day to do the cremation. The body of the young monk was placed in a casket and several of the monks stood vigil throughout the night.

The cremation was done shortly after the noon hour with several monks and family members in attendance.

Like AIDS and COVID, suicide is considered taboo in Cambodia by most of those who perform cremations, and that is why they bring them to us. I have in my lifetime known and counseled far too many people, both young and old, who have taken their own life… and the question always is WHY? For that reason, I can sympathize with both the victim and the family and try my best to make the process of cremation a positive one.

Suicide is a major problem in our world today. The increased access to social media, rap music, and negative world news bombards us daily with disillusionment and feelings of despondency. The use of smart telephones increases our ability to communicate with others in our altered personality but decreases the time we share our real selves on a personal level. I see no solution to this problem except for what we do as individuals. If you are despondent or lonely, seek help from others, don’t wait until your emotions control you. Take a walk in the sunshine and leave your phone behind… and if you are concerned for a loved one, who you see showing signs of depression, try to communicate your concern with them, and be honest. Physical contact is a basic human need… hug anyone and everyone whenever given the opportunity. Not only could you save a Life… but you will be doing yourself a favor as well.

Wayne Dale Matthysse


Because the families of the victims of COVID-19 are under strict quarantine and can not attend the cremation service, we, who know a lot about death and cremations, perform a simple Buddist service in their absence. This video was made for those families in the hope that it will bring some comfort to them… knowing that their loved one was not just disposed of, but was treated with respect and dignity. The remains are saved until the family can claim them and have a proper ceremony.


A death today of a middle-aged man, in a RedZone not far from us, resulted in a request to use our crematorium, since it was not sure if the victim was positive or not but they didn’t want to take any chances.

It took the kids and staff a good hour to get things ready and although I am not allowed to participate in the actual ceremony anymore, I still want to make sure it is done in a respectful manner.

The ambulance arrived a short time later and everyone was told to stay far away. No family members or guests were allowed to witness the event and those that helped were disinfected several times as they placed the body into the furnace.

The furnace door was closed and the fire lit but this time there were no mournful tears as is usually the case. Only the sound of the ambulance leaving our back gate.

Infections are on the rise in Cambodia and as a result, several thousand people are under strict quarantine. The death count is still just a bit over 100, however, and we hope that it will not go that much higher.

Some people have expressed concern that we may be endangering the children and I can assure you that we have taken that into consideration… but these people being quarantined and dying are our neighbors just outside of our gates. We are providing a safe area to quarantine them so that if they do become positive they can be taken in for treatment immediately. We also have the only working crematorium, for many miles around, that is not in a residential area… making it ideal for a safe and secure final disposition.

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