方禮倫:Honouring the dead 緬懷逝者

圖片來源:Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Some rituals remain the same. Flowers are placed on the ground, and I bow three times.

Every few months, when I am in London, my wife and I go to Golders Green Crematorium. Here my grandfather’s ashes are buried, in a rose bed by the fish pond. Where his ashes nourishes the earth grows a red rose bush. He loved roses and waterlilies.(註 1)

Before each visit we cut flowers from the garden he spent so many years tending. In summer, we bring roses and carnations. These we place beside the rose bush.

I remember the times we shared. Sitting in the drawing room “granddad’s house” with his old encyclopedias, which I would give me so much pleasure. I loved looking up random bits of information, not to find anything in particular, but to simply discover things I did not know. It showed me how interesting almost everything can be. More importantly it taught me the joys of be curious.

Grandad was curious too, and he liked questions. He always had a question for me. It was very satisfying to be able to answer his questions with a knowledgeable answer. It was never about being right or wrong, but about demonstrating what one knew. It always made him smile.

And I remember too when he would come visit the family in Hong Kong. In summer he was in a constant sweat — his body could take heat, but not the humidity. He loved the street markets, and the vibrant community Hong Kong was. It was always busy, but it was also free — in what people said and often felt they could do. Grandad would let his feet take him places that were often new to me, though I was a child of Hong Kong.

With him I explored alleyways and backstreets. I followed him up stairwells and on to roof tops, often unaware that we were often in private property. He always followed his curiosity, and he was fearless.

I bow three times. Then I leave my grandfather. Together with my wife we walk around the crematorium gardens. Each time we visit it is different. We have see the seasons come and go in this garden. Every tree, shrub and flower honours a life that has now passed. Each is lovingly tendered, and each seems to grow back stronger each year.

As we walk we pass other families who have come, like us, to remember a loved one. Some stand over a plant, whilst others wander among the flowers. Others seem to idle the time away in thought. It is a quiet, peaceful place. It is also movingly spiritual.

I think about my family’s graves in Hong Kong. I remember my grandparents and my great grandparents in Pokfulam. I remember too my great aunt who is buried in Tsuen Wan. When I lived in Hong Kong, I would visit their graves. With water, I would clean their headstones, and flowers and food would be placed as an offering. To them I would also bow three times. Compared to a garden, they seem squalid and undignified — cold concrete in a cold concrete jungle.(註 2)

It is often said, in Asia, that the English do not honour the dead. It is also often said that they do not honour family. Yet standing in an English crematorium garden, and seeing people honour their family in their own way, you would be forgiven to see things very differently. People have a tendency for hubris, and to misunderstand and to be prejudicial. The physical environment is not, and this tells a different story. Perhaps the truth is each culture honours memory and the passing of life in its own way. The feeling is, after all, less cultural than it is human.(註 3)



作者是英亞混血人士,先祖父是英國人,骨灰甕在倫敦東北的 Golders Green 火葬場。 Golders Green 是猶太人聚居之地。與香港的「骨灰龕」一小方寸角落不同,倫敦有足夠土地,先人的骨灰可以土葬,並豎立墓碑,佔地雖小,仍有足以獻花憑弔之處。

此文如朱自清的「背影」,除了時空有易 —— 一個是活著的父親,在車站送兒子北上;一個是已死的祖父,曾經來香港探望孫兒,現在孫兒長大了,祖父已經不在,隔代在骨灰的墓園相見,憶念香港當年。文筆柔婉,情感誠深。


  • Nourishes 這個字用得好:祖父的骨灰埋在大地裡,成為玫瑰花的養料,令人想起龔自珍的名句:「落紅不是無情物,化作春泥更護花」,大自然生死有序,都是循環。祖父墓前種植玫瑰,玫瑰和水蓮是他生前喜愛的花,前者是西方的,後者是東方的,寓示了某種意義。


  • 作者母親是香港華人,葬在荃灣。外曾祖父那一代則葬在香港仔華人永遠墳場。作者想起香港人的墳場,有點像香港人居住的石屎森林,也是灰白色的密密麻麻一片,盤據山頭。英國的墓園卻擁有恬靜的空間,也與英國的家居一樣。生死之間,亦見空間寬狹之義。因為曾是殖民地的香港,多次成為中國難民南逃聚居的安樂鄉,所以人口愈來愈稠密。時至今日,香港人還是沒有太大的興趣死後葬在大灣區。


  • 作者在拜祭祖父之時,想起了一些文化隔閡的不盡不實之詞,如「西方人不重視拜祭先人」,或「西方人不重視家庭倫理」。這種偏見,只見西方的日曆沒有清明節,也沒有盂蘭節, 不等同西方文化不注重祭祀。畢竟,英國人雖然沒有清明節,但從來沒有爆發過一場所謂的文化大革命,英國的寄宿學校學生,沒有在一聲令下成為紅衛兵,在全國「破四舊」而砸爛墳墓。所謂 each culture honours memory and the passing of life in its own way,中國恆大的老闆許家印因恆大債務,遭到中國苦主摧砸祖墳洩憤,這種極為有趣的中國「文化」,不會在河山靜好的英國發生。





※ 此欄文章為作者觀點,不代表本網立場。 ※

方禮倫(Evan Fowler ) ,本地出生成長、中英交界的香港人,在劍橋和倫敦大學政經學院畢業。現居英國。 英文怎樣能表達得更好?香港的英文教育,著重文法正確、詞彙廣泛。但除了這兩樣,說好的英文、寫好的英文,還要有某種英語的理性與感性思維。 好的英文必清晰、婉約而有教養,與中文寫作文化略有不同。有時借用英文的文化特色,用於中文,可以別具一格。但若有一日移居英語國家,與以英語為母語的當地人溝通,融入主流社會,摸通英文表達藝術的深層結構,會很有用。 方禮倫的英文筆觸細膩,每週五他會以英文與我們見一次面,講述香港和海外華人關心的事情。除了獨特的觀點,其文筆可供英文寫作學習參考。