The Words of the Hanna Family

Some reflections from Sarah Hanna's Seunghwa

Matthew Huish
April 24, 2010

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending Sarah Hanna's Seunghwa ceremony. It was a beautiful occasion, a very fitting send-off for our dear sister.

Natasha and I had some trepidation about attending the Seunghwa ceremony with all three of our children, although we were encouraged by members of the Hanna family to try to attend. Since we regularly attend the Bromley community worship service, the children are familiar with Livingstone House, which is good because they would feel comfortable there, but also challenging because they would feel free to do as they please. As expected, the children weren't in the mood to sit in one place for several hours and I found myself taking turns with Natasha to supervise one of the children at a time. Neither or us were able to observe the majority of the program, but we look forward to watching the recording of the event on

We weren't the only parents lingering just outside at the back of the marquee. Although we were struggling to fully participate in the ceremony, I was at least grateful to be present, sharing this time with the Hanna family and the wider community.

Amidst all the distractions from the infants, two moments held special significance for me yesterday:

One was the applause as Sarah's coffin was laid into the hearse. It felt fitting that at the conclusion of everything, once her life had been completely offered, Sarah should be lauded. Witnessing the large number of people waiting in honoring silence -- which incredibly included my 2-year old Olivia as she respectfully sucked her thumb -- I could recognize that so many people were touched by Sarah's life. I lost my sense of individuality and became a part of the crowd showing gratitude in unison to Sarah and her family.

The other significant moment occurred while I was walking after Olivia as she marched around behind the marquee. As I passed the entrance to the building, I caught the incense which had travelled from the Canterbury Room down the hall and out through the entrance. I transferred from a state of being disconnected to the ceremony to a state of being totally connected to the events in the Canterbury Room. My senses -- particularly through my sense of smell -- were brought together with what was happening.

I reflected on the nature of incense: While it is unburnt, the solid material does not have a strong fragrance. It is fixed in one small location, the potency locked inside. Once the incense is burnt, the material itself disappears -- it is no longer present -- but the aroma is released, permeating everywhere. Before the substance is burnt, it can only be handled by one person at a time, but the fragrant smoke reaches everyone. I realized that this is an elegant metaphor for the relationship between the physical and the spiritual realms, and hence a meaningful tradition in many religious ceremonies. Although the physical life is gone, the spiritual life has been released, transcending everything, free to be shared simultaneously with all. 

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