My aunt recently did and I received news that another of my aunt’s now has lung cancer. I have been dedicating the merit of my practice to the aunt who died and now also to my sick aunt but I have also begun spending time offering compassion and merit a la tonglen at least once a day in a more formal way.
As far as my training goes, I have always been told that we dedicate merit to the deceased and offer metta and karuna only to the living. And yet something about this seems incomplete. Knowing that all identity is shorthand anyway I feel I can use my memory of the person or a picture to connect with them and wish for their freedom from suffering on the in breath and in the out breath dedicate my merit and whatever goodness to them.
This other centered practice and to initially turn everything in its head but really, nothing has changed. Practicing for others is nothing less than practicing for myself. Transforming my heart and mind only happens through others.