When Someone Dies

IMG_0970One of my colleagues’ grandmother died recently. The illness came on suddenly, but my colleague was able to travel home in time for a last visit.

Following Mongolian custom, all of us in the office contributed money for the family. This is to help with funeral expenses and also is a way to acknowledge the family’s loss. When the colleague returned to the office, she showed me that she was wearing her grandmother’s earrings that were a last gift and a set of Buddhist prayer beads. Like a rosary, the beads help count prayers; saying the prayers three times a day will help the deceased person’s soul on its path.

Later she came by my desk with a small bag. Inside was tea, milk, soap, matches and small candles that she described as religious candles to light the soul’s path. This was not a gift, she explained, it’s customary for the bereaved family to give something back to all those who had contributed funds following a death. I asked about what is given, are these items symbolic or does each family decide what to give? Each family decides, and these things are typical for her family, but milk often is included. “Mongolians respect milk, so milk is given. Also matches.”

Symbolic, practical, maintaining community ties — I am lucky to be part of this.

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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “When Someone Dies

  1. Joan and Wally MacDonald

    Thanks for this blog. It gives a window into the attitudes re dying/death. Seems somewhat serene. Perhaps that’s true for the death of elderly? And for children or younger people, I wonder how different.

  2. Hard to say. This was particularly sad because my colleague had been raised by her grandmother, and the grandmother was disabled most of her adult life, so they took care of each other for years. Part of the difficulty for the family was that the grandchildren had all moved to the city, away from the rural family home, so they were scattered and not nearby.

  3. I love this post. Very moving.

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