Wherever there is life, there also must be death. Therefore, death is a concept that has been around since the beginning of time. And despite all the years that people and communities have had to deal with it, no one has come up with a universally accepted way for how to react after a loss of life. People of different cultures all have their own unique ways of carrying on after a member of their community passes, and no tradition can be labeled as wrong or right. With that being said, it is not only interesting, but also important to look at how different cultures deal with death and what their respected traditions might say about the specific society.
In Homer’s Iliad – Funeral Games for Patroclus, the Greek community is mourning the death of one of their members, Patroclus. However, contrary to how American society grieves, the Greek community in this story holds a series of “funeral games.” After
each game the winner, with the exception of one of the games, is given specific prizes that vary from game to game. These traditions are much different from the ones practiced in our society now, however they do emphasize the importance of honor and value within the Greek community. Therefore, these specific rituals fit the respected society and their beliefs which in turn made it a fitting way for the community to celebrate the life of one of their friends.
The idea of death and how we treat it as a society is a thought that is unfortunately very real and recent in my life. Just a few days ago, a kid from my hometown lost his
life. This came as shocking news to the whole community, as it was a sudden and terrible surprise. Although I wouldn’t consider myself friends or even acquaintances with this boy, he was a close friend for many of my friends. As the news began to spread, I watched through social media the community of my hometown uniting in this time of grief. Although members of my community are spread all over the country since we’re all enduring our first year at various colleges, we became a single unit again working to get past this horrible loss. His friends began posting and sharing moments that expressed his friendship, character, and life. It was incredible to see how even in such a short time, his life had impacted so many people, and his death had also brought them back together. I believe our practices that deal with death say a lot about the appreciation of life within our culture.
Death is a heavy and complex concept that unfortunately we will all encounter throughout our lives. No matter the circumstances, it is never an easy process to accept the loss of a friend or family member. However, it is an event that somehow always brings a community back together in order to celebrate the person’s life. No matter how it is done, the fact that each society has their own way of coping is significant enough in itself. These rituals not only speak on behalf of the deceased, but also the community that is dealing with the loss.