Saturday, January 05, 2013

the hunt

This weekend, we celebrate my mother's gi-il, the day of her passing from this world. The ceremony by which we commemorate her death is called jaesa in Korean. Mom died on January 6, 2010, after an almost nine-month struggle with glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer there is.

In 2011, the first year after Mom's death, I arranged and performed a watered-down version of the jaesa, based in large part on half-baked readings of how the ceremony should go, and using ritual elements that weren't exactly kosher. If the ceremony worked at all as a commemoration, it was more in the "It's the thought that counts" vein, not because I and my brothers executed the ritual with absolute correctness.

Last year, because I was out of money and lacked time, we didn't have a jaesa at all: instead, we four (my two brothers and my buddy Mike, who is effectively a brother) went out to Chima in Tysons Corner, Virginia-- a pricey-but-good Brazilian rodizio (steakhouse). While we all had a good time, I could feel the rat of guilt gnawing away at the back of my brain: this wasn't a jaesa.

So this year, the third year after Mom's passing, I had resolved to do a better job of gathering together the proper ritual elements (see the hardware here and here), of studying the proper procedure to follow, and of providing my living relatives-- my brothers and Mike, and possibly one or two other participants-- with a true jaesa experience.

But as before, time and money restrict me. I'm only now going out, this evening, to hunt for the ritual supplies, as well as to price the food. I already know that buying a 38-piece, lacquered jaesa "set" (see that first link, above) will set me back close to $200, and the folding screen will easily be another $150-$200. Add the actual food to that, and we're looking at another $100 or $150. I've got barely $200 in my account, as I'm once again halfway through my pay period, and won't be paid again until the 11th. Part of that money has to go for gas, which doesn't leave me much for funding this ceremony.

I had warned my brothers and Mike that I might need help to finance this jaesa, but with time this short, with the gi-il only two days away, I think it's too late to ask for any help. So I'm going to focus on obtaining the food and not worrying about the hardware (the ritual bowls, platters, stands, incense burner, ancestral tablet, etc.). At least all the elements will be in place, even if their containers won't be the right ones.

Next year, Mom. Next year.


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