In this episode Granger Whitelaw remembers Mark Allan, a friend before all else – and an employee at The Lotus Talks, who touched so many in his life — whom passed away this past week. We also discuss funeral traditions in Vietnam.
We all miss him dearly…….
Listen to the full episode at link below.
Granger: Welcome to The Lotus Talks. Hi, let me introduce myself. I’m Granger Whitelaw, CEO of The Vietnam Group and I host, the Lotus Talks along with my co podcast Cameron Lynch and various members of our team from time to time. The Lotus talks is a show where we talk about the people and the companies that are making a difference in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Or doing good while doing well, as I like to say. It’s the golden age here and there are many exciting things happening. I hope to bring as much to you as possible. So, get your coffee, sit back and relax and let’s go.
Granger: Good morning. This is Granger Whitelaw with Monday morning coffee on The Lotus Talks. Well today we’re going to change up a bit and I am going to talk about something that affects all of us in life in many ways. And that is losing somebody close to you in your life. I am going to talk about this in a business sense as this is a business podcast, but it’s affected me this week a little more closely to home than I expected. And it does affect all of us in the workplace as well as personally when we lose someone. This week we lost someone at The Lotus Talks, Mark Allen, who is a web designer and graphic designer for us at The Lotus magazine and Lotus Talks in The Vietnam Group. Mark is a wonderful person, big smile, always friendly and welcoming. Had been sick off and on for the last, I guess two months.
Granger: And you know, we really didn’t know what was going on. But over the last couple of weeks he started taking some time away from work, and then went to the hospital. We thought it was kidney related or liver related. We didn’t know for sure. And then on Halloween he texted me at home in the afternoon saying that he wanted to go to the hospital, and he wasn’t feeling well. He thought he needed to go back in. So, he went over and Rayssa and I got in our car and went over to Cho Ray Hospital and made sure he was admitted properly and saw Mark. Certainly, he was not looking good and had lost weight from a couple of days before that when I saw him at work but seemed in good spirits. So, we went off that evening to a little later dinner that we had planned after saying goodbye to Mark.
Granger: And he stayed in the hospital for another five days, texted me, I think a Wednesday it was, and he said he had headed home and they couldn’t fix them. And I laugh only because it was a smiley faced chuckle like he did so often in his texts to me, and then he went into, Oh, I’m going to need to fix this and I need to go do some SEO on this and you know, and I’ll take care of it and see you in a day or two. And I didn’t hear from him that weekend. I didn’t expect to, I thought he would just rest. Monday, he didn’t come to work, not unusual. Certainly, if he was resting, Tuesday I texted him and didn’t hear from him and thought, huh, what’s going on? Of course, found out that he had passed away Sunday evening.
Granger: I don’t know how, exactly what the autopsy will say. I don’t think we have the results yet, but certainly tragic. Mark was such a wonderful guy. Had so many friends, Nick Ross immediately posted a Go Fund Me page, to help cover his funeral costs and to get his sister here. Of course, we donated. I donated immediately and amazingly; they raised the goal of over 4,000 pounds in 24 hours. 67 or 63 people donated so far. Amazing to see that in Ho Chi Minh that type of response so quickly. There will be a Memorial service on November 28th in District seven at Ruby’s Soho restaurant. Everyone’s invited. If you’re a friend of Mark, please come by and raise a glass to him. You know, he loved nothing more than having a beer, a tiger beer and smoking his cigarettes and DJing some music and hanging out with his friends.
Granger: You know, he was such a wily guy, really kind of confusing. I’ve read some of the notes that people have sent to him, and they’re all heartfelt and talk about his kindness and his warmth of heart, how he was always there to listen to somebody, and how he was a bit confusing and it could be a bit annoying. And I relate to that too because as his employer and also friend. You know, I was always a bit confused about the way he approached things and definitely his own Mark way and that only he could. And it was annoying and frustrating for some people at work for sure. But he was a special guy and had a special heart, a very creative eye. And I knew his soul and his heart was always in the right place. So, if somebody got frustrated with him, I said, listen, it’s Mark and he’s a brother. And if you know him and you love him, and you can’t help it.
Granger: So, Mark, this is for you. For employers out there like myself who don’t know what to do when someone passes away in Vietnam, what the customs are. There are certainly some customs that are very tried and held fast to here. In the Vietnamese culture there’s really a, it’s a three to five days celebration of the life of the person. And they send them off in a special way. They wear white clothes made of gauze really. And the family, close family, wears full white over their clothing with the headband, if you’re not immediate family, you’re close though. You would wear just the white headband and go to the funeral. Celebrate them. It’s welcomed. They will literally celebrate for three to five days. The immediate thing they do for the deceased is they obviously wash them and wrap them in formal clothing and put them in their coffin with your feet always towards the main entrance of the home.
Granger: Before that the family will create an alter for them. They will put chopsticks between the dead person’s mouth and then add rice and three coins into their mouth. My daughter, I was telling my daughter this the other day and she said, Dad, why do they do that? And I said, well, you know, it’s tradition and in many countries, and I can remember back in when I studied the Greek and Romans and ancient cultures, Egyptians, they would always send off their dead with money, with coins, with gold, so that they were prepared for the afterlife. And it’s amazing to see the traditions in Asia now that I have studied them, because of this losing Mark. It obviously it became very immediate to me and I wanted to understand how should we celebrate Mark? Or how do the Vietnamese businesses celebrate their employees or loved ones?
Granger: And it’s fascinating. So, I would welcome you to take time to understand this as an employer. I asked my staff as I gathered them a to pray or celebrate him in the way they, they wish, which may be going to the alter. And receiving incense, from the deceased family. Of course, you take in a sense and in your hands and you bow and pray in peace to them or however you want to celebrate. I asked about money, donations and things, and certainly an employer will generally give money to the deceased’s family to help with burial costs or whatever they feel. And sometimes, although it’s not obligatory to do so, the employees will pool money together and also contribute. And the funeral procession is, it’s really the most important step of the funeral. The date and the time of that is very well selected and carefully thought out. It’s based on consultation with usually an experienced fortune teller in the Vietnamese culture and the eldest son will lead that parade and that procession and then other members of the family and close friends. And again, the employer’s ok going to the grave site.
Granger: So, celebrate that. You’ll see this happen. You’ll see vans and other vehicles covered in a beautiful, ornate decorations on the way to the grave site with people following and dropping spare change along the way and votive papers along the way. It’s a beautiful tradition. Don’t be shy, don’t be scared to ask questions and participate. There are many superstitions about the afterlife with the Vietnamese and their belief in the afterlife, which is why they usually offer food and burn ghost’s money and other items like clothing and et cetera. And this is so that they believe that in the afterlife, the deceased and can eat and spend or use these things, even homes and cars at times they’ll give. Oh, by the way, the incense is to chase away bad luck. That’s a superstition in Vietnam.
Granger: So again, Mark, we miss you dearly, all of your friends here and we celebrate you. This podcast that you created, the logo for The Lotus Talks, after you and I went back and forth many times, is a replica of a Lotus flower. If you’re listening, look at The Lotus Talks logo. It is actually a Lotus flower. That incentive flower leaves. We used buildings to kind of create the shape of the Lotus flower and of course, then there’s the round circle, kind of the bud of the Lotus flower and the microphone, for The Lotus Talks, actually a part of a flower as well. That is the actual image and the reason for the image. And it was created by Mark and I in a collaboration in his skilled hands obviously created the logo that we use. Now that’s it for Lotus Talks today. I hope you have a happy Monday. Anybody in your heart celebrate them, as far as business goes and Lotus Talks. I will follow up on Friday with another feature probably along The Green Trail, which we are promoting this month. And something that Mark, was very involved with, he built the green trail.com website and was very actively involved with that project. So again, we celebrate him with that memory as well. To all of you, this is Granger Whitelaw.
Granger: Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to podcast on Buzzsprout. Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts, and many other podcast platforms, so you never miss an episode. If you want to support what we do, then share and leave a comment. You can always find us on our website at thevietnamgroup.com/thelotus as well as our Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and just about everywhere in the world. Just search for The Vietnam group. We post updates daily and featured the lowest blog and podcast. Until next time, The Lotus Talks. See you soon.