Glutinous rice and the toy truck: honoring tradition in tragedy

There were so many coffins – 19 in total – that they erected an entire wall of Wat Rat Samaki Temple. A long white string, a Buddhist symbol of purity and protection, ran over their top. Around each coffin were placed items for small children to carry into the afterlife: a Spiderman costume, a plush kitty, juice boxes, grilled pork and toy trucks, many of them.

The city of Uthai Sawan formally began mourning his 36 people on Saturday. There were twenty-three children in the day care center who were shot dead by a former police officer on Thursday. There was 3 year old Asia, who loved cycling and was allowed to ride a bike inside his house. Laying away several coffins was 4-year-old Dane, who loved Matchbox cars.

Uthai Sawan is a rural town of about 6,000 in northeastern Thailand. The funeral was to be divided into three shrines. Monks from neighboring provinces traveled to the city to help with the funeral. On Saturday morning, the framed photo of Athibodin Silumtai, which everyone called Asia, was still not ready because there was only one photo shop in the city, his great-grandmother Khamphong Silumtai said.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s time for them to leave,” said Khamfong, 46. “He’s too young and too innocent. He was gone too quickly.”

Thailand is a majority-Buddhist country, where believers believe that performing virtue, or doing good deeds, is necessary for the deceased to live well in life. Funerals are often performed with this goal in mind.

Phra Vinai, who has been ordained for 24 years, said he traveled to Uthai Sawan from nearby Loi province to see if he could help. He said he had performed funerals for young children who died in drownings or accidents, but “never like this”.

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“It’s such a tragedy,” said Phra Vinai. But, he said, the tenets of Buddhist teaching are that life is a cycle consisting of birth, old age, suffering and death.

“Look at nature: when a tree bears fruit, the fruit does not always ripen.” They said. “Young fruit can fall when there is wind,” he said. “Life is very unpredictable and uncertain. We can’t do anything with this uncertainty.”

This article is originally from . appeared in new York Times.