At the Fresno Fairgrounds inside the Industrial Education building, a large photo of Xy Lee holding a guitar hung above a stage. Beneath it, family and friends gathered around an open casket. There were floral arrangements in the shape of a guitar and a huge heart.
“Right now, they are going to start playing the ritual, the Hmong ritual, to send the spirit back to its original place,” said Yeng Lee, Xy Lee’s uncle.
The traditional songs are supposed to help the spirit return to its place of birth, and reincarnate. One man plays a qeej, a traditional wind instrument made of bamboo, while another beats a drum, to send Xy’s spirit back to Laos.
It’s the final day of a three-day ceremony that brought over 400 people, Lee said. Some of them came all the way from Laos and Thailand.
“I’d say that for the past two days it’s been very hectic and harsh, because he’s a famous international singer and he has lots of fans,” said Yeng Lee.
Lee said he and Xy were close, especially after Xy’s family immigrated to the United States in 2010.
The 23-year-old singer was killed in the mass shooting in a Southeast Fresno backyard where friends and families had gathered to watch a football game. Police say they’re still investigating the crime.