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Thai Individual Life Cycles Part 2





After marriage, every couple eagerly awaits the birth of its first child, children having a high position in rural and cultural values - obviously, there is strength in numbers, a vital sense of continuity is ensured, and many hands make farming activities easier.

Almost inevitably a child is born during the first year of marriage. Often there exists an unspoken preference for boys since they alone may be ordained to gain merit for themselves and their parents. The pregnant mother frequently continues to per-form her household duties until. the moment of birth.

Formerly, birth took place at home, the mother aided by the village ‘midwife’, an elderly woman with little or no formal medical training, and an older household woman. Now, however, babies are delivered at regional health centres and infant mortality has dropped dramatically as a con-sequence.

As the couple grows older, their social standing rises, particularly after they have succeeded in establishing their own house-hold and are demonstrably their own masters. The wife enjoys an important voice in family and village affairs, sometimes representing her household at village meetings her husband is unable to attend.

Active adulthood continues through child-rearing years, eventually slowing down at the age of 60, generally recognized by the Thais as the onset of old age. At that point village elders traditionally turn over house-hold leadership to a trusted son or son-in-law. Thereafter, in a far-from-morbid pre-paration for death, they concern themselves mainly with merit-making, temple activities and enjoyment of their grandchildren.

Whatever their position, all old people are politely deferred to, served and cared for by their children and grandchildren. Some old men become ordained for a second time and spend their remaining years as Buddhist monks. Others, eschewing idleness, busy themselves fashioning fish traps or baskets and doing odd jobs within the family com-pound. Old women continue to care for grandchildren, and, In certain areas, spin and weave silk cloth. They are often sought both for their wise counsel and their ad-mired culinary skills.

During sickness and imminent death, every effort is made to fix the sick person’s mind upon Buddhist scriptures or to per-suade him to mentally repeat the Buddha’s name. It is hoped that if the deceased’s last thoughts concern the Buddha and his pre-cepts, the karmic fruit of such a meritorious act will be reaped during his next, ideally higher, existence.

When death occurs, merit-making acts are performed for the deceased’s benefit and in reflection of the sense of loss felt by the entire community, villagers express social solidarity by helping the bereaved family in every possible way.
As soon as possible after death, the corpse is bathed by family members and dressed In white. The left hand is an-nointed with water by family and friends who mentally ask forgiveness for any wrongs they may have committed against the deceased during his life.

The death is officially reported to the village headman and abbot. The first night, monks visit the deceased’s house to chant services. Villagers attend, and after religious services, adults maintain an all-night
vigil, gossiping, reminiscing, smoking and perhaps passing the time playing chess.
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Article Added on Sunday, January 10, 2010
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