As an atheist, I never really thought much about death. It’s a natural part of life, which most organisms have to face eventually. But a recent death has gotten me thinking about death, about life, about people, about rituals, about faith.
I have respect for, but have no inclinations towards appreciating the myriad rituals that accompany funerals. Given my knowledge of religion has just been broadened by an elective module I picked up recently, it’s become even more likely to me that there is nothing beyond death. After all, with every religion having their own version of the afterlife, does that mean they are all applicable? The odds for the converse are higher in my opinion.
But I realised that such rituals were made not for the dead, but for the living. It’s about comforting the people who have survived their kin, for them to feel like they’ve done everything they can for the one who’s passed. It’s about giving them a sense of closure, to provide them what crumbs of comfort there can be had. And when you see people break down into tears anyway, you realise it’s never enough.
In the end, death is more than just the end of life, of your journey. It’s also the end of your presence on others’ lives. I felt so wrong standing behind the immediate family as they shared one last conversation with the deceased. Voices raw and ragged, tears brimming at the eyes…it was heartbreaking.
At that moment, I wondered if I would be the same when the time comes for me to say goodbye to my parents. If there will be people who will be that way when I leave this world. It’s sobering.