The other day, I lit four singular joss sticks (incense).
One for my friend’s grandmother.
One for an old coworker who, I learned, committed suicide a few years ago.
And one each for two of three triplets who didn’t survive their first day on this earth.
While I was taught that you should always light three joss sticks when you pray, which (in my adulthood I learned) represents the Three Gems of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Sangha (monastic order) and the Dharma (teachings), I was also taught that when you make an offering for the dead, you light a single stick of incense.
And so I did. But I didn’t light the four joss sticks all at once, or in quick succession. No. Instead, I went through the following process four separate times.
I stood before my altar and lit a joss stick, calling upon my spirit team and theirs to listen. I asked their spirit teams to guide them to their next destination, that any suffering from this life and past lives can be released, and that their next life is smoother and filled with even more love than this one. And I sent out healing energy to those who are suffering because of their departure from this existence.
And after I completed this four separate times, I thought of all the other people who have passed through this space — friends and family and strangers — and chanted that special chant that was given to me when I went to get my Sacred Tattoo blessed — that helps beings everywhere to transition en masse to their next realms.
I chanted. And I felt all these beings move in different directions, to wherever is their next destination.
And as I stood there before my altar staring at the four sticks of incense, I thought about the people out there who think that they are alone in their departure from this world. They think that no one is there to remember them or to light incense for them or to send them on their way.
But I am here.
And I will light their stick of incense to send them to their new home.