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Home > Horror News > Local Horror News > Where The Unborns Are Laid To Rest
Where The Unborns Are Laid To Rest
By: RSS/News Feeds

Aug 20, 2006
Where the unborn are laid to rest
At the An Le Memorial Park, spirits of miscarried or aborted foetuses are laid to rest in urns nestled in columbarium niches

By Teo Cheng Wee

BE AT PEACE: These niches at An Le Memorial Park ensure the spirits of foetuses can dwell in peace. — SHAHRIYA YAHAYA

CHILLING newspaper images of an undertaker carrying a fruit box with a dead baby inside shocked Singaporeans earlier last week.

Sales assistant Wong Lih Tyng, 36, was charged last Wednesday with dumping her child in an employee’s locker at Bishan Junction 8′s NTUC FairPrice supermarket.

The body of Wong’s premature baby, which may have been stillborn or died during delivery, is believed to have been in the locker for two weeks. Wong has been remanded at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for further evaluation.

The lockers have all since been replaced, says an NTUC FairPrice spokesman.

But while some babies are dumped, others at least have a resting place at the top floor of An Le Memorial Park in Choa Chu Kang.

Sunny, lush with greenery and boasting open spaces, there is a placid calm around the columbarium, broken only by the chiming of soft Buddhist music and the peaceful rustling of leaves when the wind blows.

But this top floor of the columbarium is not for ashes of fully-formed babies. Instead, the niches are for the spirits of months-old foetuses that may have died because of abortion or miscarriage.

An Le’s marketing director Thomas Chua says the top floor is the perfect place for baby spirits to play. ‘They won’t kacau (Malay for disturb) the adult spirits from up here,’ he whispers, as he carefully shuts the glass door that separates the concrete shelves of the infant niches outdoors from those of adult niches indoors.

The reason they need to be housed, says geomancy master Ang Boon Soon, is that ‘as foetuses, these souls haven’t been fully formed yet, so they can’t be reincarnated. As a result, they stick around their parents’.

That area on the top floor, which was opened just last year, is managed by the Yuan Zhong Xiu Geomancy Centre. Mr Ang, 42, who is also the centre director, says he has seen a greater demand for these niches in the last few years.

An Le is the first columbarium here to group the niches of ‘ying ling’ (Mandarin for baby spirits) together. Since it opened, more than 700 urns have been placed, with another 200 more to be added next month. Think of it as a supernatural childcare centre for baby spirits.

Mr Ang says that distraught parents come to him for help when they feel that the spirit of their baby continues to linger around them after its death.

‘If it has other siblings, it may also get jealous of the attention they get from their parents and disturb them.’

And it is not only for those who recently lost their baby. Couples have come to him 20 or 30 years after an abortion, claiming that they feel ‘shadows’ around them.

According to Mr Ang, the baby spirit may have been around all along, but was just not felt by them previously.

By grouping them together, the baby spirits have a place to stay and would not wander. It also makes it easier for priests to perform mass rituals, which take place a few times a year and give the baby spirits a chance at reincarnation.

Each baby spirit is housed in an urn, and a niche can be shared by four urns. These contain the hair and nails of the parents, as parents usually do not claim the foetus after birth. ‘A few parents have more than 10 urns here,’ Mr Chua remarks with a heavy sigh.

The parents’ surnames are carved on the outside for identification, but – unlike ancestral tablets – parents are not encouraged to pay respects, lest the baby spirits ‘cling on and don’t leave’. It costs $1,388 to place one urn and $500 for each subsequent one.

‘People tell me that they feel better after they put an urn here for their unborn baby,’ says Mr Ang. ‘It’s like a weight has been taken off their shoulders.’

chengwee@sph.com.sg

********************************

Locker baby gets a resting place

THE coffin of the dead baby who was found in a locker at Bishan Junction 8′s NTUC FairPrice will be small, white and filled with baby items.
This is the standard arrangement for a baby funeral here, says funeral director Roland Tay, who will be sponsoring the baby’s funeral at Casket Fairprice in Sin Ming Drive. It will take place within the next few days.

Mr Tay, who collected the body with his men from Tong Aik Undertaker last Monday afternoon, says it was the pitiful sight of the baby that led him to offer his services.

Furthermore, he found out that the mother was holding down two jobs. ‘I always sponsor funerals for the destitute and poor,’ he says.

He tracked down the father, who authorised him to handle the funeral. But he declines to divulge details about the conversation or the cost of the funeral.

According to reports in the Chinese newspapers, the parents of the baby have been married for 18 years and have a teenage daughter.

Mr Tay says that the baby will be cremated. He also came to a decision with the father to scatter the ashes in the sea.

Mr Tay had previously sponsored other high-profile funerals, like that of murdered China girl Huang Na in 2004.

He explains that white symbolises purity and innocence, so it is almost always used as the colour for baby caskets.

The baby will also be dressed in baby blue overalls, and wrapped in a blanket.

Accompanying him are ‘necessities’ like a milk bottle (filled with milk), diapers, pacifiers, a pillow and a bouquet of flowers topped with a miniature teddy bear. It is meant to soften the look of the baby, so that he looks asleep, but baby funerals remain grim affairs.

Although more small-scale and far less common than adult funerals, they are usually more heart-wrenching, funeral directors say.

‘It’s tragic and always very hard for the parents and family members to bear,’ says Mr Bony Sim, funeral director of MandaiCorp Funeral Services.

While parents can leave it to hospitals to bury or cremate foetuses or stillborns, they have to prepare for a funeral themselves if the baby was born but died after that.

But usually there is no wake and no obituary placed in the papers. Some Chinese believe that the baby will have a quicker reincarnation if it does not stay in this world for too long, notes Mr Sim.

A quick cremation or burial also makes the pain shorter for those involved, adds Mr Tay, who also owns Direct Singapore Funeral Services.

Mr Sim handles fewer than 10 baby funerals a year, while Mr Tay sees fewer than 20. In Mr Sim’s experience, infections and problems related to the heart or lungs are the most common reasons for the deaths.

As for Muslims, the prayers and sermons that are integral to funeral rites will not be given if the foetus is less than six months old, although it will still be buried.

‘It is not considered to have come into our world, unless it was born or showed signs of life,’ explains Mr Abdul Aziz Kajai, who runs Singapore Muslim Casket.

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