Goodbyes are hard.
It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone, especially when we care about them. The pain that we feel can be overwhelming. Over the centuries, different cultures have developed their own special ways of saying goodbye for the last time.
In Korea, families have cremation beads kept in their homes as a special way to honor the deceased. The beads are created by refining the cremated ashes into a fine powder, and heating those ashes until they melt like sand. The ashes are then solidified into beautiful crystal beads that are kept as a reminder of the beloved family member.
Chinese mourners remove mirrors and hang cloth on the doorways of the home to help release positive energies to the descendants of the deceased and to help enhance the descendants’ fortune and health.
Royal members of the Han dynasty, the second imperial dynasty of China, were buried in expensive suits of jade that took years to make. The jade was cut into squares, rectangles, and triangles, then threaded with wire to cover the entire body, similar to a suit of armor.
Located in Colorado, Crestone is the location of the only outdoor cremation site in the US. People can be cremated there regardless of religion. The body is typically surrounded by wood and branches of juniper and wrapped in a cloth. If the family wishes, they can set the pyre ablaze themselves.
The Zoroastrians don’t believe in cremation, as the practice is seen as polluting nature and fire, both of which are protected by the religion. Instead, the bodies are exposed to the elements on top of the Towers of Silence, brick or stone tables about twenty-five feet tall.
Similarly, Buddhists in Tibet leave the bodies of their loved ones to animals, allowing the soul to depart from the body and cross over into paradise.
Mourners in the Philippines have two interesting traditions. First, hidden up high in the mountains are hanging coffins. This is because the people of Sagada believe that the closer a coffin was to the sky, the closer the deceased beloved was to heaven. Secondly, some Philippines practice the “Tinguian Funeral” in which the mourners dress the deceased in their finest clothes, place them in a chair, and give them a cigarette. The body will sit, smoking for several weeks.
The people of the Republic of Kiribati in the Central Pacific will remove the skull of their beloved a few months after burial. The family will then polish, oil, preserve, and display said skull. Offerings of food and tobacco are occasionally made to it.
People all around the world have their own ways of coping with death and separation. It’s hard, but it is possible to move past the empty feeling.
It has been an amazing honor to be your International Correspondence author. Thank you for all of your thoughtful and encouraging comments on my articles. I have enjoyed writing for you all, and I will remember this experience for the rest of my life.
For the last time,