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Death has many aspects

Nearly all societies have rituals that mark the transition from one life-phase to another.

Birth, baptism, the transition from child to adult, marriage and the end of life. Such rituals can usually be divided into three phases: Separation, liminality and re-integration.

Separation between the living and the dead commences when it is clear that death is close by. Preparations are often made by giving special treatment to the person dying and their family, as well as performing religious rituals. Separation becomes total once death occurs. Liminality is a state of "betwixt and between", where the dead one is neither among the living but, until the rituals are finished, is not completely among the dead, either. The family of the dead person is also torn out of its daily routine during this liminal period of mourning - both emotionally and in practice. The third phase, re-integration, returns the family to everyday life, while the completion of the ritual frees the deceased from this life.

In earlier times, people believed that once a person's heart stopped, they were dead. Today, the borders between the living and the dead are more difficult to define. For example, medical technology allows drowning victims to be revived after having been submerged under cold water for over 20 minutes, and patients at hospitals may be kept alive even though vital organs fail.

Technology simultaneously forces new ethical challenges upon us: How long should a doctor wait before turning off a heart/lung machine in a hospital after the brain functions of a patient have ceased? At what point is it appropriate to remove an organ from a donor in order to use in transplantation?

As abrupt as film tricks
Gone

Not gone out
Of the house

Not gone out
Of the country

Is no more

– Jan Erik Vold
Published Mar. 24, 2020 11:51 AM - Last modified Mar. 27, 2020 1:15 PM