I feel this month offers a holiday which gives us many views on one strange topic. From rituals, writing, art, to even celebration, death is perhaps the greatest enigma in the human experience. We all know it’s a part of our world, yet we continue to be fascinated with it, affecting many aspects of our lives.
Being a topic of many questions, death has been pondered for thousands of years by many cultures. Intense, specialized burial practices and mummification have been recorded all the way back to ancient Egypt.
Different cultures and religious traditions have different practices concerning the dead. However, one thing remains true throughout the world; there is great interest and reverence for death, and what lies after.
Many authors, poets, and artists have been fascinated with understanding and portraying different aspects of death. Some poets, like Shel Silverstein, compare death to a kind, gentlemanly character. Others paint the picture we know as the Grim Reaper, carrying a scythe and wearing a dark and dreary cloak. Composer Gustav Mahler even composed an entire symphony (Auferstehung) dedicated to the afterlife. Here is some of the choral text:
With wings which I have won for myself,
In love’s fierce striving,
I shall soar upwards
To the light which no eye has penetrated![…]
Rise again, yes, rise again,
Will you, my heart, in an instant!
That for which you suffered,
To God will it lead you!
There are a great many points, from rituals, writing, and art to understanding the great mysteries of death. I can remember even as a small child my grandmother trying to teach me that one day we all die, and I must come to terms with it for not only myself, but in also allowing others to go. I personally am always intrigued, yet not afraid; I believe that even if we leave, our spirits continue into an even greater place, and this is something we should celebrate.