If you’ve made it this far in life and haven’t had to deal with the death of someone close to you, then I am counting you among the lucky. Unless this is because you and your family and friends are otherworldly entities who can suck the life force from other creatures, thereby rendering you immortal, in which case, what the ****?
The fact of the matter is that life and death are linked together. Modernity means we aren’t exposed to it every day the way our ancestors were, but it’s there. People die every day. The living things surrounding us are constantly locked in a battle to survive which means something must give up the ghost. The food you eat whether derived from animal or plants? That’s a big mouthful of death, converted to energy so we can live a bit longer.
But we don’t hold funerals for sandwiches (though some of us might pray over our food before we send it to the glorious tomb of our bellies) or the weeds we pull in our gardens. Not every death is commemorated with ceremony and solemnity. Rituals for the dead for the vast majority of us are reserved for those we have connections with, either emotionally, spiritually or financially. We might attend a state funeral for a fallen civil servant or watch the news coverage of the procession for a fallen media personality. A great deal of us would be okay with having a small funeral for a beloved family pet. But there is always a connection that causes us to want to commemorate the passing in some way.
Every living thing dies. And how people view death, commemorate the departure of a being and console those left behind is one of the most important tenets of culture. Most every religion deals with what happens after we die and every culture has its proper way to deal with the dead. Taboo, superstition, faith, science, ecology, health and psychology all intertwine as people gather around the deceased and send them off to the next life or oblivion.