When a person is in his/her terminal stage, it is a norm still for some of Chinese folks to go to temples or visit spirit mediums to perform rituals in the hope to prolong the love one’s life. But if the person is determined by the gods or goddesses that his/her life is coming to an end; there is nothing one can do but to prepare for the funeral services and the wake.
However, if the person is the sole income earner and that he/she is still young in such a way that if he/she dies; then the whole family wouldn’t be able to live. Then there is a Taoist ritual known as “borrowing life”.
Basically, this ritual can only be done amongst the parents and children and it is not workable amongst brothers, sisters or amongst relatives. The life can only be borrowed for two seasons max; with 5 years as one season and no more than that.
Anyone who wanted the ritual to be performed must first write a written statement indicating both parties’ personal particulars including date of birth, the duration of life to be borrowed. This chore is best to be done by the Taoist who will later carry out further rituals as he should be familiar on how the statement should be written. In normal circumstances one should prepare three copies of borrowing life statements.
After that, an auspicious date is selected and the Taoist will bring the requestors to the temple of Lord of Death, in this case it is the “Emperor of the Eastern Mountain” (东岳大帝) and the “Three Judges of Northern Yin” (北阴三司) where two copies of the statements are burnt in front of the statues of the deities and the final copy must be burnt in front of the house deities.
While burning the statements for borrowing life, the person must make a wish such as to donate to the poor or to employ monks and Taoists to perform deliverance rituals for the wandering spirits. If the ritual is fruitful, then the dying person will recover within three days’ time.
However, if the person dies after the ritual, then the person who had ‘borrowed’ life to the deceased must visit the temple of the Lord of Death to revoke the agreement or his/her life span will be shortened too.
My personal take is: while performing the above “borrowing life” ritual, one must also seek the help of modern medicine too so as not to miss the patient’s critical moment that would make the love ones regret for whole of their lives.