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As humans we do mark the End
Because of death, we appreciate life #3
As humans, we do mark the end of life, and quite understandably, we make quite a big deal of it. I wonder what is at very heart of memorials and funerals that happen each and every day around the world on a daily basis.? Please ponder this question, and I will attempt to come up with some thoughts at the end of this blog.
Yes funerals and memorials happen around the world on a daily basis; in every one of the 190 or so countries that exist on this planet. I performed a quick search and found out that 151,600 people die everyday. That is 6,316 every hour. That leads to many memorials and funerals each day. Going along with each of these deaths are countless people that are sad by a passing of someone they were close to, a physical presence that is no more. There are so many grief journeys. Some of these deaths may have been expected; the person was older perhaps, and their health was suffering tremendously. Others would be a shock; totally unexpected; either though an accident or violent crime. Others would be young; a life taken far too soon. Some happen before birth.
People having being dying since this world was created. It has been thought that Neanderthals started burying their dead 70,000 years ago. You would have seen the pictures of sarcophagi (and pyramids), maybe even seen one for real, portraying the elaborate lengths the Ancient Egyptians would go to, ushering their dead into the next world. Ancient Greeks used clay urns, while Romans, who were marvels at engineering, carved coffins out of limestone. As recorded in the Gospels, Jesus was buried in the tomb of a wealthy Jewish family, in a cave, which were in essence family funeral plots. Indigenous American Indians buried their dead in canoes or turtle shells. In Aboriginal Culture, funerals are often referred to as ‘sorry business’ with rituals being quite large affairs with people travelling great distances, with often a series of events.
In Western Cultures, tradition has moved away, a little from burials, opting more for cremation. We have funerals where the coffin or casket, with the deceased inside, will be present in the service. There will be an opportunity for the family to have one last look before the service commences. I know that doors to chapels are very ‘closely guarded’ by funeral directors to ensure family wishes are respected in this very sensitive moment. From the service, there may be a burial, or the body and coffin may be taken for cremation. Just a note while we are on cremations. Flowers are never burned with the coffin. If they are present they will be thrown in the bin, so always, always take them. I am sure you will find a place to lay them. With burials, however, the flowers are often lowered into the grave.
Funerals can be stressful events for people. Funeral Directors are wonderful at walking families through the arrangements, but they often need to happen within a week. I have been involved in some memorial services where they have the ashes, and families, in their own time have a fitting memorial in a nice and relaxed manner. People have often had more time to reflect and there have been some beautiful moments. Of course the various options are totally up to what works for your family.
But back to my original question. Why do we go to so much effort to mark someone’s death? After all it is not something we like to focus on, but we do. Is it about acknowledging the life that has been, and how they made the world a better place, remembering the quirks that will become their endearing qualities? Do we ‘owe it to them’ to ‘give them a good send off’ or is a death so significant to those who remain, that to have the final ‘thing’ is just something we have to do? Do we hope they will rest in peace? Do we measure our own life after hearing the tales of someone life in a eulogy, and perhaps aspire to greater heights? Do we leave a service, although saddened, also being able to celebrate the hope of human existence that will continue? It could be one of these things, or none of them, as we are all unique and individual. But one thing is common; we will mark someones end, in some way or another. What do you think?
The commentary in this blog is intended to be general in nature. It is just some observations from one fellow traveller in life to another. If anything in this blog raises issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or consult with a trusted medical professional.