Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

Through this quarantine, I have been drowning in my thoughts but then again, who hasn’t? I have always pondered about the crazy and somewhat neglected topic of death. Yet death is just as hard and sad to cope with but the purpose behind it and the constant questioning has made stumble upon writing this paper. In my life I have experienced two major deaths; one being my grandpa, Alfredo T. Salmasan and the other being my bestfriend, Ciera Alea Wallace. Although I was only 9 and had no absolute clue how to feel, it still hurt but it was easier to handle but my best friend passing hit me like a truck. There are no words to describe that god awful feeling, so I began to question why and how this would happen to someone so young and beautiful with a life ahead of her. She was only a 19 years old, who sang so peacefully and her laugh was contagious. In a matter of minutes, one’s life can be taken away so easily. Like what a trip. However; it’s not about how they die in the end, it is about what life is their left of them after.

When some hear the word “death” people get queasy and start to look at you funny for having an interest about something so odd but I find it amazing. Not at the fact that people dying is amazing but the fact that there could be a life for them after. We all wonder if there is some truth to that but it begins with your belief. I started this paper, asking myself what direction would I stir this to but I wounded up believing in my own beliefs. The further more research I got into, the more I began to realize there are no right or wrong answers. Afterlife is what you make of it whether it be reincarnation, some sort of guardian angel, and/or this alternative life etc it’s how you see it.

Afterlife in Cultural Aspects

Afterlife is the life after death; in some religions it could have different aspects and ways they view this topic. Point being is the way one would believe in afterlife might not be the same as the next person. There are no absolute answers but there have been studies leading up to the question. From the article, “Cultural Beliefs About Afterlife” written by Karelle Kohler informs readers that there are various cultures that practice afterlife in multiple ways. She mentions in the beginning how it either can be how they practice it or in memory. To Japanese all the way to Egyptian, they all have different meanings and how they express their beliefs. For example, the Egyptian culture does not believe death is the end yet only the beginning of one’s early life. Following strict rules and proper burials to ensure the continued existence of the individual beyond this world.

In the Egyptian culture, it was important and vital to follow these correct protocols to ensure their soul was still present. Through mummification, meaning the process of preserving the body after death by deliberately drying or embalming flesh. Designing these steps in hopes for the person to rise again, having no body meant no soul ever existed. Rising again not in our lifetime but somewhere else; where their soul is there. Religion plays a major part for Egyptians because that is what bounds them together. Not only is religion a key holder for this particular culture yet it is very vital for others as well. On the other hand, the way Japanese believe in the afterlife is completely different.

Shinto and Buddhism was a main contender for the imagination of Japanese culture. Death was almost like a mimic to the stages of a child in a womb. The way Japanese culture practices with enhancing the Buddhism tradition; using water and salt is still a way of purifying the dead to pass the Sanzu River. Just like Egyptian culture, death is just as important when it comes to following specific procedures. Coming from a culture where religion, burial specifics, tradition all indicate how a person can peacefully and purists could pass along. Noticing that these two cultures are completely different, having different aspects of religion and the concept of afterlife. In the end, it is still your belief; religion is one thing that bounds those cultures to do what they do. As their religion is very much influenced by the culture it is amazing to see how they deal with death. I find it crazy and intriguing to see what their protocols are, like we see in both Egypitian vs Japanese. Both are from different parts of the world expressing afterlife in ways we can only imagine.

The True Process of Dying

Before afterlife, I never knew when a body was fully dead..dead? If that makes sense. It’s almost like what are the processes to a person when their body is vanishing. I began to further my research and found out the stages of an individual who is dead or dying. Finding out that when you pass away, your death begins within the first 4 to 24 hours and within that hour you can start to see discoloration. Although it is no shocker that when you die your body shuts off yet what are the natural stages we must think about.

In this youtube video, “What Happens After We Die?” by Unveiled enhances my knowledge about death and the after part of it all. Throughout the 6 minute video, it describes the effect death has upon your body and how it transitions to practically nothing but bones. As well as science playing a big part into death; how the enzymes disintegrate and what happens to your brain when it is slowly shutting down. Although nobody wants to talk about death, unveiled enhances manages to make this video just as interesting if it was a horror movie. Being that death is just as mysterious as it is saddening, this video does a great job at explaining the death process and the after life that could be. Through the spiritual, physical, and mental aspects it demonstrates examples of each process of death; where it begins all the way to the end.

In the beginning of the video at 1:20 seconds, it begins to talk about the start of your body slowly shutting off and how the process looks like. I like to believe this is real and actually useful because there are no real answers as to what death looks after but this video and by having the knowledge to understand the process I can begin to truly understand death. Overall, I felt like in order to feel somewhat aware about afterlife I needed to know more about death itself. It became more apparent and understanding to know when a fully developed dead body was actually dead. Where the skin deteriorates and there is nothing left but the corpse.

It started making more sense when I put these things together and had the knowledge about death. I mentioned multiple times that death has never been easy to talk about and my friends and family can just be the prime example. Questioning them about death either went one or two ways, very personal leading into emotions or a careless mindset about it. Asking them questions such as; What does death mean to you?, When people die, do you think they remember anything about themselves?, Do you believe in the famous, hell or heaven?.

Family & Friends Questionaire

“What Does Death Mean To You?”

“Sad” is what my mother says; she associates that word by death because even for her, she couldn’t explain it without crying. I found her answer most heartfelt and relatable because that’s how I feel. Although it is one word; death is sad, death can be so unexpected where it makes you question your life within seconds. My mother began saying how death is so unfair and crazy for happening but she said her famous line, “it’s life.” Which is true but death can affect you with those simple words and is something we won’t truly experience until we die ourselves. Asking her this question made her question me as to why I even thought to ask her but she said I am glad you did. “I don’t speak much about my feelings to you but death is something indescribable where your heart is torn from losing someone so important to you,” my mother spoke out.

“When People Die, Do You Think They Remember Anything About Themselves?”

I asked a few of my friends this question and some said yes some said no. One of the reasons why they said yes is because they felt like well it’s your body so how could you forget? Dying is just one thing but could you possibly forget your whole entire life because of one incident. Which got me thinking, could that even be possible. I saw an article where it said you can remember but it will slowly vanish from your brains. Then some said well you’re dead so do you even have any thoughts or is it just a new body in a different world.

“Do You Believe In The Famous, Hell Or Heaven?

My brother said, “Yes I do.” He believed in hell and/or heaven because he thinks what else could there possibly be. On a more belief level, he thinks if you do good in this lifetime then you shall receive good when dead and vise versa. He would like to believe that there is this alternative life and somehow I do agree with him.

I think we have created this thought in our brain since we were young so that’s all we think we know but I believe there are things like this that do exist. Hell or heaven is something I think about or is brought to my attention when I associate it to people dying. Like did they make it there? Or is it just made up and it’s not even called that.

Conclusion

Having this opportunity to be able to do research about a topic I have been longing to know about has really helped me come at peace. Peace with my best friend’s passing has been so hard on me. No matter the amount of time that has passed by it caught not only myself but everyone by surprise. It’s just not something you think twice when hearing about your friends. Being that death has been only apparent in my life like two times, it was so hard for me to accept the fact that my best friend died. Even saying it still hurts till this day and that’s why I had to do research on it, it felt right and refreshing.

Touching up on a topic like this gave me insight on not only death but how different cultures portray afterlife. The way they practice it and the meaning behind it; the religious views very much influence a person’s culture. I liked this project very much because it helped me get out of my comfort zone and dig deeper than the usual; to think if there are other alternative worlds.