“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”
This quote by Emily Dickinson probably encapsulates what is the most popular notion about death. However, there have been anecdotes from around the world which have said otherwise. It is not that they have spoken of immortality, but resurrection. One such popular anecdote is the resurrection of Lazarus.
In the Bible, there have been multiple occasions when death has been compared to sleep. Even Lazarus’ death of 4 days was accounted as sleep. In contrast to his story, the modern-day NDEs (Near Death Experience) stories tell not of sleep-like experience but of an ethereal place which they have ephemerally seen. However, it is still mysterious what happens when you die.
Burials in different cultures
This enigma about death has led different cultures to treat it differently. Some have chosen to cremate the body while most have chosen to bury it. The practice of burial has been around since the time of the Neanderthals.
The South Koreans around the 1980s widely believed in burials at home. It was because they thought to be buried away from home, where one’s loved ones lived, was ‘bad death” and dying near home was “good death”.
The Tana Toraja region in Eastern Indonesia has an interesting take on death. They view death as a process rather than a simple event. This has led them to conclude deaths with celebrations which go on for days after it has happened. A person’s hierarchy is reflected in how many animals are sacrificed after he/she has died.
In Bahá’í Faith, both the place of burial and the rites are prescribed beforehand. Carrying a dead body to a distance which takes more than one hour from the place of death is forbidden. They wrap the body in a silk cloth and make it wear a ring with the inscription, “I came forth from God, and return unto Him, detached from all save Him, holding fast to His Name, the Merciful, the Compassionate”.
We might never know what happens when you die. It might lead to Nirvana, heaven with angels in them, hell with Satan in it, mysterious land of purple skies or it can be simply a long sleep. Either way, it will never cease our thoughts to oscillate from the simplest to the absurdist notions we can conjure.