For time immemorial, humans have been obsessed with questions of life, death, and the afterlife. However, these days we only tend to speak of death in hushed tones, if at all. Its mere mention produces unease in even the bravest among us, as though merely a passing mention of the fate that awaits us all cements its reality and invites the grim reaper’s premature attention.
And yet, there is no greater evidence of our humanity than our knowledge of our impending demise and our ritualistic care of the deceased. Humans have been burying their dead since at least the Paleolithic era. In fact, some of the oldest evidence of religious practices is directly tied to ritual burial. It is a unifying trait among all human beings; every nation on earth has theories on the afterlife and instructions on how to deal with cadavers.
The subject has not always been so taboo, however. Not very long ago, the sight of a dead body was much more common than it is now. Bodies were often kept inside the home for mourning, or left at the front of churches. In fact, what we now call the “living room” was formerly known as the “death room.” It was here that the newly deceased were exposed before burial. Such a practice would surely make any modern person cringe. We no longer have such a hands-on approach to taking care of the dearly departed. In fact, we have painstakingly removed any traces of death from our periphery.
As our society’s attitudes towards death have changed, so too have our methods of dealing with the deceased. There now exists a thriving industry that ensures that our loved ones who have shuffled off this mortal coil receive a proper send off.
The following blog will examine the death care industries around the world, and its terminology.