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.