Short Story by Maria Magdalena Bhoernomo (The Jakarta Post, August 07, 2017)
Mr. Sanjaya suddenly remembered a scripture: Every living person will surely die.
And perhaps because looking at death is so important, in ancient times the kings left a testament before dying to his heirs. The contents of the testament is essentially a funeral order in a place that has been prepared.
In the history of the world, the tomb is very important. All kings and people who have had great power and wealth, both religious and nonreligious, are fond of preparing the tomb for themselves and their relatives with their luxurious things.
In fact, before or after death, everyone does not know how his fate in the afterlife. Nor will it ever return to the mortal world, after death. While fate in the afterlife, will not be determined by the circumstances of his grave. And no science or religion ensures that a beautiful tomb will determine the beauty of the afterlife or as a reflection of heaven.
But why does everyone think tombs are so important and after death want to have beautiful and even sacred tombs? This question is increasingly worrying Mr. Sanjaya. As a successful entrepreneur, death is considered very important and therefore he does not want to be buried in a public cemetery complex.
“I must immediately buy a piece of land that is safest and beautiful for my funeral complex.” Mr. Sanjaya murmured as he sat in a rocking chair in front of his wide-open bedroom window. He was getting older and his health was getting more and more disturbed. Every moment, death is getting closer.
Mr. Sanjaya then pictured a small hill near the forest, away from the crowds of the city. It feels like a hill fit for a funeral complex. The hill is still green and cool. When he was a teenager he often shot a bird on that small hill.
“Yes, I must prepare the burial complex at the little hill. I’ll buy that little hill, whatever it costs and how ever. “Mr. Sanjaya mumbled again. Then he ordered his wife and children to buy that little hill. And because the hill is state-owned, the easiest way he chooses is to bribe a number of state officials. Then with a rent system, the little hill can already be officially owned.
“Find the best architect to design a beautiful cemetery complex. I and all my relatives must be buried in a beautiful cemetery complex, so that in the future many pilgrims will be visited. “Mr. Sanjaya spoke in front of his wife and children; all his relatives deliberately gathered to discuss the construction of the funeral complex he had coveted. All agreed and supported the construction of the funeral complex.
A United States graduate architect is entrusted with designing and realizing a beautiful cemetery complex on a small hill. And after the miniature of the burial complex was completed, it was immediately shown to Mr. Sanjaya.
Mr. Sanjaya’s eyes widened at the miniature of a beautiful cemetery complex on a small hill. Mr. Sanjaya agrees that although the cost required for the construction of the funeral complex reaches dozens of billions of rupiah. Mr. Sanjaya drained his deposit at several banks. He hopes the construction of the funeral complex will be completed before death picks him up.
How happy it would be if before he died he could see the beautiful cemetery complex that would be the residence of his corpse forever. Mr. Sanjaya is now relieved, because the process of building the funeral complex has already started. Every day he is watching over the workmen who work. They seem very skilled.
After six months, the construction of a beautiful cemetery complex on a small hill was completed and ready to be unveiled. But what is the most appropriate way to inaugurate a funeral complex if the one to be buried is still alive?
In confusion, Mr. Sanjaya got a new idea to inaugurate the funeral complex.
“I will hold a party inside the funeral complex by inviting all the local officials, religious leaders and journalists. In that way, journalists will surely report it in their respective media. So my funeral complex will be famous. The public will talk about it and want to visit it. “Mr. Sanjaya mumbled as he sat in the rocking chair in front of his open bedroom window.
After the opening ceremony of the beautiful cemetery complex on the small hill, the next day the local newspaper published the story. Mr. Sanjaya saw a picture of a funeral complex in the newspaper proudly.
“Now I feel ready to die.” Mr. Sanjaya murmured with a beaming face. His wife suddenly approached with a glass of honey mixed with herbs.
Every morning, in turmeric, his wife always tells him to drink herbal medicine mixed with honey so that he remains healthy and mighty in his old age.
“From now on I do not want to drink herbs mixed with honey again,” Mr. Sanjaya refused the beverage.
“Do not deliberately refuse to keep fit. This beverage is very nutritious and suitable for you.”
But Mr. Sanjaya still refused to drink herbal medicine mixed with honey. He wanted to get sick and quickly die after inaugurating a beautiful cemetery complex on his little hill. Now, for him, life is no longer attractive. He wishes to die soon and then be buried in a grand and solemn funeral procession. He imagined the funeral procession will be covered by a number of print and television journalists then broadcast widely and became the talk of all levels of society.
But it’s been a year since he inaugurated a beautiful cemetery complex on a quiet, cool little hill and Mr. Sanjaya is getting tired of waiting for death.
One sunny morning, Mr. Sanjaya sat in a rocking chair as he flipped through the newspaper that had just been delivered to him.
He was surprised to see the picture of his funeral complex now increasingly crowded by young people at night. They are paired and often seen making out inside the funeral complex. According to some eyewitnesses, some of the visitors are caught making love inside the complex.
The news made Mr. Sanjaya angry. Soon a discussion was held with his wife and children and relatives who would be buried in the beautiful burial compound if they died.
“You must try to keep our funeral complexes in a good image, not a filthy place. The news must be rectified. Call the journalist who wrote it tell him to write another news to rectify the news, “Mr. Sanjaya instructed.
Not long after, however, Mr. Sanjaya decided to close the funeral complex to the public. Guards are stationed there day and night to make sure there are no unwelcome visitors.
The next day, Mr. Sanjaya was shocked again to read the public response in the paper. A number of concerned citizens were asking the government to immediately dismantle the funeral complex that has clearly become a morally corrupt place.
The next day, local officials made a statement in the paper that the funeral complex was private and not a local government property. And if it turns out the funeral complex is a morally corrupt place, the blame should not rest with the owner of the complex.
Mr. Sanjaya is getting worried. He began to feel a sense of remorse for having built a beautiful cemetery complex on the small hill, but he was alive and do not know when death will come for him. It was only natural that the empty funeral complex was then visited by young lovers looking for a quiet place to be with each other.
“I wonder if my death is delayed because I have prepared the burial complex?” Mr. Sanjaya suddenly remembered the myth of delayed death.
In the midst of Javanese society, there has always been a myth about delayed death by the preparation of death. The myth is so popular, so many Javanese who want to live long deliberately prepare the shroud and tombstone for themselves to be used for when death arrives. And it turns out many Javanese live a long life, as if the act of preparation actually keeps death further away.
Ten years on, Mr. Sanjaya now feels natural to believe the myth of postponement of death by the preparation of death. After all, he is still alive.
Indeed, his wife and children and all his relatives who would later be buried in the vicinity of his tomb are all still alive. And now, the myth is often the subject of conversations in the community.
Suddenly, almost everyone he knows are imitating his act of preparation. They build burial complexes for themselves and their loved ones. Many community plantation and paddy fields are bought by businessmen and officials to be used as sites for the beautiful cemetery complexes.
The poor are also preparing the tombs for families around their own homes. Some are deliberately making a hole with a burrow in front of the house, or behind the house, in preparation for death that is believed to be able to delay death.
Mr. Sanjaya suddenly felt sad, because he has become a pioneer in the construction of a funeral complex that was followed by many people. Now everyone considers it important to immediately build a funeral complex, or at least build a tomb as a form of preparation for death that can come at any time.
Now more and more people think that building a tomb is more important than building educational facilities to improve human resources and various means to improve the prosperity of living.
“I do not think I should feel guilty. The kings and royals of ancient times are to be blamed,” said Mr. Sanjaya.
In the following days, Mr. Sanjaya likes to sit in a rocking chair in front of his wide-open bedroom window. Mr. Sanjaya dreams of the coming of death someday soon.
Maria Magdalena Bhoernomo is a writer of short stories, poems, essays and novels. She lives in Griya Pena Kudus, Central Java.