Life After Death – Influencing the Journey?

I realize this is a very delicate subject for most of us. We all lost someone close to us, or we know someone affected by the loss of someone dear to them. After getting a bit older, witnessing more and more funeral rituals becomes part of everyone’s life. For me, a few questions came to my mind, and as the last hours spent with the deceased are so important for the last goodbye and their ‘journey’ to eternity, leaving those without an answer seems very much wrong.

After my family was affected, a few weeks ago, by the loss of a relative, a whole war started in the family about what needs to be done in order for the soul of the dead person to reach heaven or wherever it’s supposed to go. Sure, everyone has an opinion, and apparently if you don’t follow theirs, something bad will happen to your deceased loved one (something bad kind of already happened, by the way).

Considering that the practice varies from country to country, and even worse, from one area of the country to the other, I can’t help but wonder: WHO got it right? If what we do after their moment of death, matters so much, and we are going to influence in a negative or positive way their journey to eternity, then what is the right thing to do? What if a different culture got it right and we didn’t? What if the funeral practices from one area of the country are right, the rest are wrong, and only the souls of those people will reach eternity, leaving the rest of us out? Oops …

I’ll give you a closer look to a few such rules which need to be followed in Romania, that I am aware of (many more are out there, but I’ll point only to a few), which are meant to guarantee a spot on the best possible cloud in the sky.

So … someone dies. For me, that’s it. Game over. Sorry, but whatever you do afterwards won’t change a thing for the one who sadly past away. However, most will disagree with me. And this is why, when someone dies, you have to cover the mirrors in the house, kick the pets out as they are not allowed to go under the table, give away food (to feed the soul up to 7 years after their death), plates, cups, clothes (to wear on the other side), cutlery, money (they need to pay some sort of bridge tax to cross to heaven), towels, cloths, shoes, pay priests to say prayers (the prayer is more like a reminder that the person died – yes I can see that myself), light candles (they don’t have any light unless you do this – is heaven in the basement or something?), place certain objects in the coffin, for the journey to the after life (if they don’t have those objects, they can’t cross into eternity), and also cook a specific type of food and bread, which are also extremely important for some reason I can’t recall right now.

Even more, you have to do the ‘give away’ ceremony every other 3 days after their death, until the 40th day, from where you start counting every 3 months or so, not including holidays like ‘the day of the death’ when you have to give food again to the ‘dead’ unless you want them to wait at the gates of heaven and starve, while other souls eat. These mind games played so well by the church and the elderly of the society puts the family of the deceased in a lot of financial and emotional distress, for the next 7 years after the death of the relative. And you just have to do it, unless … consequences!

Now, let’s pretend I believe all this. But, from what it’s known, isn’t heaven that place where you let go of your body presence, and you become a beautiful bright light, shining gorgeously while sitting next to god? And all the pain and sorrow goes away, and you spend a beautiful eternity in your best shape possible? Then why all the rituals above? How are you going to use plates and cups, and eat the food, if you have no hands or stomach? Also, use the clothes to dress … which body?

tom-cheney-two-d1Basically, from what I can tell, you only get to heaven if you have relatives to take care of everything for you. What if they don’t? What if you have no one left alive to do this for you? What if they can’t find your body anymore, like it often happens after a natural catastrophe? What if you die in the war? What if you simply can’t afford it ( a real problem for most people in my country)??? And the ‘what if’ list goes on and on. You know in what all of this is translates? MONEY. Yes, the rich ones go to heaven, the rest … oh well, bad luck. Maybe next time. Not even the after life isn’t fair, huh?

Now, that we clarified how the situation looks like in Romania, let’s take a look at a few more cultures from around the world, and see what they believe is to be done right, when a love one dies:

Famadihana

Malagasy people of Madagascar practice Famadihana (turning of the bones), a ceremony which consists in digging the bodies of their ancestors from the family crypts, rewrap them in fresh cloth, than dance with the corpses around the tomb to live music, as a way to remember their dead loved ones. After a short ‘fun’ trip around the village, they bury them again, until next time.

Philippine traditions

The Benguet blindfold their dead while the Tinguian dress the bodies in their best clothes, and place them next to the main entrance of the house with a lit cigarette in their lips. The Caviteño, bury their dead in a hollowed-out tree trunk and the Apayo, bury their dead under the kitchen.

Sky Burial 

Or dissection, is a funerary practice in the Chinese provinces of Tibet, Qinghai, and Inner Mongolia. The human corpse is cut into small pieces and placed on a mountaintop, exposed to animals, especially predatory birds, which help dispose the remains. They believed that there is no need to preserve the empty body so they allow nature to use what it can take.

Hindu funerals

A lamp is placed by the head of the body, rice balls are placed in the coffin, and a necklace and garlands of flowers are placed around the person’s neck, before cremation, as it is believed that this will help their soul to escape quickly from the body. Afterwards, the ashes of the deceased are sprinkled on water of Ganges. If the deceased one is a child or pregnant women, they just throw the body in the water, and let it flow into eternity, as they are pure.

Coffin hanging 

This ancient ritual involved the displaying of coffins on high cliffs, believing that coffins need to be close to the sky so that the dead can be closer to heaven, leaving ghosts and spirits free to roam around the hills and rocks.

Strangulation

The funeral ceremony taking place in the South Pacific Island of Fiji, based on the ancient ritual of Sati, involves killing of the dear ones of the deceased as they should not be left alone in the other world, making the process of death less painful.

Again, these are only a few examples of other rituals which need to be followed in order for the dead one to reach eternity. The question of who got it right is still out there.

What makes us think, as a society united by the phenomena of death, that we are better than other societies and our actions taken after someone’s death will guarantee OUR dead loved one a spot in heaven, while others will be left out? What about the other cultures from all around the world? What if dancing with the death or hanging the coffins on a mountain top is what does the trick, and we’re doing it wrong?

The priests love to make us believe their way is the way. If you don’t pass the ‘church inspection’ on the way to heaven, you can’t get there (and yes, you only have to pay your way out of the land of the living). And we pay … And we do what we’re being told. In the end, the church is the most booming business in Romania. In a society where the elderly hold on with their teeth to religion, in order to get to eternity, how can it not be a good business? Tax on pain is quite high, and if people are trained to follow blindly what they say, why not?

Personally, I believe the rituals have little to no influence at all on the journey to eternity. We don’t do them for the one who passed away, but for the people left behind by the deceased. We do them all for ourselves, in order to bring peace to our hearts and fill the empty space left by the death of someone we love.

For the deceased, it makes no difference if you give them food and clothes, dance with them, or feed them to the birds, while they are not with us anymore. It seems like we are holding on to their death, by buying things as they would still be alive, in order to keep their presence in our lives. But what we miss seeing is that no ceremony will ever bring them back, and no ritual will matter, if the generosity and love wasn’t shown when our relative/friend was still alive.

A person we love will always be with us, in our hearts and minds, no further ceremonies needed. We don’t simply forget someone who was an important part of our lives; we just continue our lives, and take them with us everywhere, in our memories and hearts.

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17 thoughts on “Life After Death – Influencing the Journey?

  1. Very interesting post 🙂 I agree with you, that while it is very sad when someone dies, what happens after that is all for those surviving. I think we do what we need to do to make peace within ourselves, but some if the things you mention are really extreme!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading! I very much appreciate your feedback on my posts 🙂 . It seems to me like all the rituals make it even harder on the families. You have a hard time enough, as it is, dealing with not seeing your loved one ever again, and you still have to go through such ceremonies, only to please the elderly and the church. This is taking advantage of someone’s misery in my book … And if only it would make a difference for the deceased… Some people just take it to the extreme. Have a peaceful evening! x

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  2. I had no idea that rituals for the dead varied by so much! Very good and informative article Lucy!
    I personally believe that the soul leaves the body at the time of physical death, and where the soul goes depends on how the person lived their life.
    Sorry for the loss of your loved one and hope your family can find peace within their hearts..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much my dear Wendy! I’m happy to know you enjoyed the article. It’s crazy to see how extreme some people are when it comes to such rituals. And it only makes it harder for the families. The last thing you want to think about when you lose a loved one, is such silly traditions. Unfortunately, it happens everywhere… Have a lovely evening! xo

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  3. Interesting topic…Let me share my experiences about funerals..
    I have been through several funerals from various traditions. Chinese-Indonesians have bit similarity like in Romania. I remember when I was a kid, when one of my uncles passed away, I had to burn “hell money” to assist the dead in heaven. In Muslim-Indonesian tradition, it is much more simple and humble, the dead has to be washed three times and prayed then covered by white sheets then buried without coffin. In Christian-Dutch tradition, there is a special ceremony as well. When the dead inside of the coffin brought for the funeral service (in the Church or somewhere else), then the coffin placed inside a Hearse (the black car), the car drives slowly around the house and its neighborhood with the family members walking follow the car.
    One thing I notice, the cost of funeral could be very expensive. Personally I agree with your last paragraph..wisely said!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comment, Indah! Your feedback is always very interesting to read. I had no idea the Chinese-Indonesian funeral rituals are close to the Romanian ones. It’s beautiful to treat someone with respect, even after they passed away, but sometimes, it’s taken to extreme. When it alters even further the life of those left behind, it’s a stop point for me. The family and friends left behind should spend their time and money trying to get past the sad event, not hold on to the past. Healing is a long difficult process, and I guess every culture in the world tried to deal with it differently. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me! Have a lovely day! x

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  4. No ritual here on earth that people practice wil assure the dead the entrance to eternity. When a person dies, his spirit leaves the body and crosses over the treshold to eternity. Once there, he is in God’s world and than God takes over from there to judge what that soul achieved, good or bad when he/she was and did on earth. Everyone has their own opinion of what heaven is like and how and when we will get there, but, truly we don’t know until we get there. I truly believe that if we did know, we would certainly look forward to the day when we no longer exists on earth. Heaven, from what I believe and have knowledge of other people’s out of body experiences, is a warm, loving and beautiful place. I sure can’t wait to find out if it is! It sure would be a better place than the hell we are all living here on earth compare to heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment dear Frances! Personally, I believe both heaven and hell exist inside of us, and everyday we make a choice to live in either one of the other. For me, all the funeral rituals are only an attempt to hold on to the deceased for a bit longer, when actually, we should focus on being there for each other when the person is still alive. Have a lovely evening! xo

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  5. I’m sorry for your loss. I agree with you, the person we love will always be with us, in our hearts and minds… and doing all of this is meaningless. But for some people, these rituals will ease their pain. We can’t really blame them. It was very interesting, as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. I always appreciate your feedback on my posts 🙂 I’m not sure if those rituals ease the pain or not. I see them more like a constant reminder of your loss, especially in the days immediately after the burial… If for some people work, then it’s good. But for those who doesn’t, and they have to do them as they are forced by ‘society’ it’s only terrible and useless. I guess it varies from individual to individual. Have a lovely evening! ❤ x

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      • I agree, you should only do it if helps you to say goodbye. Some people need that, they need some “stages”, because otherwise it’s too brutal. But it makes no sense like you said to only do that because of society. thank you ! Have a nice evening as well 🙂

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