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April 8, 2015

A Strange Site in an Old Cemetery

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – It was time to challenge our next graveyard which was located next to the large telephone exchange building on a busy street. The grass had been mowed and the cemetery looked taken care of.

The taxi driver wanted to know why we wanted to be dropped off there, and we told him it was for research. He shrugged his shoulders and give us his card to pick us up when we were finished, shuddering as he left.

We looked over the scene. The graveyard was arranged with a hill in the background and all the graves facing a low ditch. We managed to work our way to the soggy bottom with the ground acting like a sponge over our tennis shoes.

It finally dawned on us that the ditch was actually a stream or small river bed in past years. Feng Shui, the Chinese art of putting things where they're supposed to be, dictated a stream or river with a hill in the background. The stream had long ago, I would say about 25-years or so, was diverted to make way for the highway and other modern improvements.

The graveyard looked promising. There were several graves marked only with a piece of belian wood, about 3" wide and 4' high. Belian wood is very dense and is thought to last hundreds and hundreds of years in this tropical climate as it is impervious to insects and other forms of deterioration. On many of them, the writing had come off due to what I thought was age.

We took pictures of many of the tombstones. They were U-shaped with a small hill at the back of the U to designate where the coffin had been placed. Suriani and I became separated as we worked our way back up the hill snapping pictures.

In Malay society, and Suriani is a Malay, the body is sown into a white cloth. It is then placed in grave with face gazing toward Mecca. The hole is then covered up. The body is left to the ground dwelling elements. I give you this information for what is coming next.

About half way up the hill was a coffin that had come up out of the ground. It was sitting at a 30 degree angle with half of it buried and half rising toward the sun. I noticed it but just kept taking pictures.

Suriani noticed it, as well, and proceeded to carefully examine it as she had not seen one before. Then, she got on top of it and began jumping up and down on it much like a child on a trampoline. I stared in disbelief as I had never seen a person, especially my wife, jumping up and down on a coffin that was half way out of the ground. I was also afraid that her foot might break through the top and I did not want to deal with anything that was inside.

Not wanting to yell across the cemetery, "Get off that coffin!" I worked my way over and gently pulled her off. I think she was trying to push it back into the ground, an impossible task unless you had a back hoe.

We took some more pictures and later, found out the graves were in the 1930s-1970s. They did not pertain to my research. But I will never forget my wife jumping up and down on that coffin.


...Life is good. . . . .


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