Almost Last Rites

During a break from a wedding ceremony in Mas yesterday, we went to the main temple, where preparations have been under way for months for an unprecedented ceremony taking place early next month.

Walking around the temple grounds, we stumbled across the priest taking a nap. Maybe he was knocked out from the midday heat. But I was struck by seeing him lying there.

It was an odd sight.

Corpse pose, I thought.

He looked eerily dead. I said something to that effect. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have… especially in a holy place. Especially in Bali.

What I remember best were the rings on his fingers. And his green Crocs.

Then we returned to the wedding. Shortly after, the same priest showed up to offer his blessings.

When the ceremonies all ended, relatives and friends scattered, mostly to line up for more food and drink. We sat out front, across the ceremony bale (pavilion). The priest lingered as well, smoking, looking up to the sky… I didn’t say it aloud, but I wondered what he was gazing at.

A few hours ago, I received a text notifying me that the priest just passed away; the priest that blessed the couple less than 24 hours ago; the priest that was supposed to lead all the ceremonies at the temple next month; the priest that slept so strangely; the priest whose gaze met the sky.

He was on his way home this morning from working in the rice field, fell ill and died a short time later in hospital.

Surely the Balinese, who believe in auspicious days, magic, superstition and god will find meaning in his untimely death. As for me, I just don’t know what to make of it all…

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