Life-giving death, a gift to mother nature
Giving life after death. Have you ever thought about that? I am not talking about donating your organs, which is a good thing as it can help many people. I am talking about giving life after you have died, but differently.
Before I tell you my idea, I would like to take you on a brief tour around the world and show you what death means in other cultures. Do not worry, this will not be a sad or frightening post. I personally think it is a positive post, you will see.
When you make your appearance in this world, one thing is certain. One day you have to leave. The in-between is different as everybody’s life is different. You might be born in a poor or wealthy family. You might have very nice and understanding parents, you might not have any at all, or you might not get on well with them.
Hopefully, you will get a wonderful education so you can advance in life, have a career, family, and children. On the other hand, you might not be so lucky and somehow you do not have a grip on your life and slowly slide down.
How you treat your body, and how strong your genetic inheritance is, will also affect the duration of your life. However we turn this thing around, eventually you will experience your last day on earth.
Looking at different cultures, it is interesting what rituals are performed when somebody dies. I would like to tell you about some of them, as there are often big differences from our own traditions.
In this country, there are many different sects and sub-sects. This will contribute to some variations in the burial rituals. Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world and is estimated to include nearly a billion followers. According to Hindi philosophy, God is present in all of us and in the total universe. Our soul is divine and we live our life on earth to realize this divine essence.
Our physical body dies, but our soul has no beginning and no end. Living many lives through reincarnation, the soul will reach its true nature and will unite with Brahman, the One.
People of the Hindu faith prefer to be at home when death comes near. Like that, the entire family can be present. After departure, a 24-hour vigil takes place before cremation. One wears white as the color black is not appropriate, flowers are offered but not food.
The casket will be open so the people can say goodbye. People from other faiths are welcome. Then the ashes will be scattered at a special place of importance to that person. Sometimes the ashes are taken to a holy river.
While in Western culture death is more than a family ritual, in many places in Africa, it is more like a large public celebration, where one celebrates the life of the deceased one. The celebration depends on the cause of death and the deceased’s social status.
It depends on the specific religion as to how these rituals are to be performed. With Muslims, the dead are buried almost immediately, while in other cultures preparations are made for the burial and death celebration.
It seems that the funerals in Ghana are the most extravagant, and it is not seldom that the costs of the celebration can reach $15.000 to $20.000. The more people come to mourn the deceased, the more respected and loved this person was. Often, the casket for the corpse represents the loved one’s profession or perhaps favorite object. Like an aircraft, shoe, animal, or pencil.
In Nigeria, there is an unusual custom. When men die, they are buried facing the east so they can see the sunrise. Women fare a worse lot. They are buried facing west. From that position, they can see the sunset and cook dinner for their husbands. There you see we are being kept busy even in our afterlife.
The Inuit people
The people of the Inuit tribe live in the far northern areas of Alaska, Canada, Siberia, and Greenland. Due to the extreme cold and often a lack of food, the elderly who were of no use to the community would request suicide. Sometimes the person would be killed without request.
The belief that they would leave old people in the freezing cold seems not to be true. When somebody died, they would take the body to a hilltop, together with the few personal belongings. There would be no special ceremony. The Inuit believe humans and animals have a soul. There is no punishment of adults or children during their life or in the hereafter.
The Aboriginal people believe that your soul will go to the land of the “Dreaming Ancestors”. In the past and in modern-day, burial and cremation are used. The death rituals are used to help with the safe passage of the spirit into the afterlife. In doing so, one hopes the spirit will not return and cause mischief.
Aboriginal people may talk about “sorry business” when referring to the funeral and mourning rituals.
With certain groups, there is a strong tradition not to mention the name of the dead person and neither depicting them in images. This is done in the belief that it might disturb their spirit. After what is the proper funeral ceremony, the following might be many days of ceremonies, including dances and singing. This can last for days and even weeks, and children are taken out of school so they can take part.
Many Native Americans share the belief in an endless life cycle. Birth, life, and death are all related. All tribes have great respect for the earth, and their funeral practices have always been eco-friendly. Each tribe had its own funeral traditions but focused on helping the deceased person in the afterlife, leaving food and possessions.
Often the dead body would be left on an elevated platform. After a certain time, the bones would be cleaned and kept in a bag.
Some groups like the Nez Perce sacrificed the wives, slaves and favorite horse of the dead warrior. The Apache and Navajo were afraid of the ghosts of the deceased. They would quickly bury the corpse and burn the possessions and house of the deceased. The family would purify themselves and move somewhere else.
I lived in Holland from the age of 3 and a half years to 15 and a half years. I lived in the more Protestant part of Holland. I remember a funeral for a very much loved person I used to call uncle. He was a famous astrologer and during the war; he had helped Jewish people escape from the Nazis.
These were stressful times and if caught, it would mean death. This stress contributed to his severe diabetes and needing to have Insulin shots.
In 1958, when I was 8 years old, he died one day before Christmas. My parents told me some days later. We went to the funeral which was held in a snow-covered cemetery. I remember standing next to the grave which was covered with pine branches. They lowered slowly the coffin down. The branches opened and then closed after the coffin had passed. It was beautiful, but I cried my eyes out.
In 1998, my grandmother died at the age of 98. As I lived in Spain, I took the plane to assist at her funeral. It was a rather joyous family reunion, especially for me, as I had not seen most of them for 17 years. In the chapel at the cemetery, there was a service, with music and people giving speeches.
Then we started walking behind the coffin which was carried by 6 men in frac (tuxedo and top hat). It was February and cold, but luckily no rain. However, there was a lot of fog covering the 6 men up to their waist. It was unusual to see my grandmother’s coffin floating in the air as it made its way to the family grave.
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Having lived on the Costa del Sol since 1976, I have assisted in quite a few funerals. The first one was Don Luis Leyva, the hotel director of one of the hotels where I worked as a tourist guide. He was also co-founder of the Lions club in Torremolinos. He was well known, and that is why there were close to 200 people attending his funeral.
First, there was a Catholic service with Cuerpo Presente, meaning the corpse being present. Then we all walked to a huge wall in the cemetery where there was the prepared niche. While we were standing there, 2 men in blue overalls came and lifted the coffin into the niche with a small hydraulic lift. Then they placed a stone plate over the entrance, took an enormous tube of silicon, and sealed it around.
I can tell you I was rather shocked and found it awful. I later talked about it with his widow, who was a good friend. She had not liked it either.
Here in the village where I live, I have attended many funerals. Often the coffin is carried through the village or otherwise you go to the chapel at the cemetery. Normally there is a 24-hour vigil at the home of the deceased.
The day before the first of November Spanish people go to the cemetery to clean graves, replant and place flowers.
The end is the same for all
Different religions and different countries and cultures are all saying goodbye to loved ones. The fact is, wherever you are born in this world, poor or rich, it does not make a difference. One day you have to leave. Personally, I wish there would not be so many cemeteries. All those cold stones and occupied land.
I am writing this post as I have come across something which might shock some people and I do understand. Still, what is proposed by this Italian company, I find it very beautiful.
Have a look at this YouTube video of Capsula Mundi.
Giving back to Mother Nature, an afterthought
During our life on earth, we use Mother Nature resources. During our lives, we might have done nothing positive for the environment. With Capsula Mundi, you now have the chance to give something back. Be a strong, tall, and beautiful tree which will clean the air for future generations.
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Source: My Life
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Lately, there have been devastating fires worldwide. Trees are of utmost importance to the world. You might like to read the following post.
Funny how people are well celebrated more after death than to be truly celebrated while they are alive. Though the culture of people and belief systems are different and this leads to differences in what they do to respect the dead. However, the African celebration is very funny. Seeing that they spend that much on the dead. Well, it is all based on belief but it all depends on the belief system and I really learned a lot from this post.
Good Morning Rodger,
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There are some unusual ways to say farewell when people depart. Depending on the country and religion it can be quite colorful. As in most cultures, people believe in life after death it should not be too sad. It normally is more sad for the ones left behind.
This is a really interesting article. I like the idea of the Capsula Mundi and I think it has every possibility of being very popular. It would be great for the environment with more trees being planted (which we need) also it means land won’t be taken up by cemeteries. Also, I think it would be cheaper than a traditional western funeral.
Good Morning Tom,
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Funerals can be very expensive and I think you are right that with a Capsula Mundi it will be cheaper plus it does something positive for the environment. Let us hope this idea will spread and people will want to become a beautiful tree after death.
This looks like a burial option that would be worth considering. Trees can live for hundreds of years, whereas headstones often begin to deteriorate in several decades. I’ve always loved seeing the trees go through their annual cycle of spring blossoms, lush summer green, and the reds and yellows of autumn. The hardest decision would be what kind of tree to have, as there are so many that would be suitable.
Good Morning Gloria,
Giving back to Mother Nature what we have used during our lives I think is a positive idea. Worldwide we a losing trees at an alarming rate. With Capsula Mundi it would be a big difference and I hope this idea will spread.
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That is a very interesting post.
While you have given different ways of burial from all over the world, there are great similarities at the same time.
I really like the idea of the pods with a tree planted above it. Once we die we are gone. The soul has left the body and only an empty shell is left. It is so silly to spend a pile of money on a funeral and to make it non environmentally friendly just seems so wrong when you take a step back and think about it.
Thanks for sharing.
Good afternoon, Geoff,
It is nice to hear you found my post interesting.
I agree with you. Our body is but the vehicle of our soul during this life on earth. To be able to give back to Mother Earth appeals to me. In the meantime, I have planted many trees on my Spanish farm over the years. A long time ago I decided already that I do not want to be buried somewhere. To be cremated would be my option. Now I can seriously think about the option to become a beautiful tree.
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Hi, interesting topic, I believe that there is another life after death for each of us, I didn’t know that a Hinduism burial included almost a billion followers, wow, that’s amazing, thank you for that.
Yes, I do believe this is true too, I was brought up knowing that, God is indeed present in all of us and in all the universe, we talk to God at any time and anywhere and he does always hear us and answers us, and we do also believe in the divine sense.
Our physical body dies, but our souls keeps on moving on to the next life, I also did learn this and is is confirmed by Jesus story when God, the Father had him rising from the dead into a complete new life, I love Jesus story, do you?
Hindu faith appears to be similar to the Christian faith with little differences, we also prefer to pass away surrounded by family and friends, we don’t offer food but flowers, we wear black because the colour is associated with sadness and respect at the same time, so it has to be worn to respect the dead and show that you are sad for them leaving.
I think I like the way it is done in Africa, it makes sense to celebrate and remember how that person lived his/her life, rather than cry and be sad about them dying.
Now that is one I don’t agree with or like, I never felt or feel comfortable when I hear some one say that a woman’s place is in the kitchen because it most certainly isn’t.
I love the idea of giving back to mother earth and preserve land.
Great article, i really enjoyed reading it and have learned a few thing too, keep up the good work.
Good afternoon, Idalina,
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We all form part of creation and that is why I believe we should respect the different cultures in the world. We might not always agree, and I think that is ok. What I dislike if we try to impose our beliefs on others thinking it is better.
The Jesus story is beautiful and has such a deep meaning. It is sad though that we do not listen and neither follow the recommendations of how to be a good human. If we did that, this world would be a peaceful place.
Mother Earth provides all we need, and that is why the idea of giving back after death is so special.