By Jane Bauer
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. Mark Twain
The moment we are born, we begin the process of moving towards our inevitable death. That is something most of us probably don’t like to dwell on too much, but there is no denying that when faced with thoughts of death we are reminded of the wonderful value of what it is to be alive. The way a culture deals with its dead says a great deal about those left to carry on.
Some places such as Bali and India burn their bodies in elaborate outdoor ceremonies, the Masai leave their dead outside to the elements because they don’t believe in an afterlife, by contrast in Tibet they have a ‘Sky Burial’ in which they also leave their dead outside to be consumed by nature- the ceremony represents the perfect Buddhist act, known as Jhator. The worthless body provides sustenance to the birds of prey.
Regardless of what the ritual is- the thread of commonality is that almost every culture has a ritual or tradition. In Canada and the US about half the dead are burned behind closed doors in furnace chambers called crematoriums. Beyond the funeral however grief is something that is done in private or support groups.
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is one of the most important holidays- a mixture of pagan and catholic ritual that honors the dead while celebrating the living. A holiday devoted to gathering of family and friends, to remember the dead, to grieve together and remember to value life. It is a beautiful and cathartic time. If you are not in Mexico what about a Day of the Dead fiesta or check out the Mexican inspired activities around the world on page 14.
See you next month,