Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Chaos of Death

This fascinating, macabre young blog explores the rituals and beliefs surrounding death and burial in various cultures. The writing is intelligent and scholarly, and that certain subject that we all must face, try though we may to avoid it, is handled with dignity and grace, touching on the poigniant, terrifying, and sometimes beautiful phenomenon that is death. The posts concerning the deaths of children in the 19th and early 20th century are both informative and evocative. It may seem morbid to modern folk to take a photograph of a dead child, but in those times, that was often the only photograph the family had.
One of my great aunts died at a very young age. My grandmother ended up with the photo and it was discovered after her death in 1992. I thought it was a child sleeping in a bassinet until my mother told me what it really was. Although I am a fan of horror fiction and write it myself, I must confess that I was shocked. My initial reaction was to drop the picture. At this point I wish that I had kept it. Such a thing is of important historical value for a family.

3 comments:

tsduff said...

Lily, there are many cultures who photograph their dead - I once knew an American woman who photographed the open casket of her Chinese husband's dead father. As she passed the pictures around our group of friends, I noticed several women were startled and uncomfortable with the images, myself included. We don't like to see death head on in our society. When my young nephew died tragically last summer, I had a hard enough time with the open casket service, let alone take any pictures. Interesing post.

Lily Strange said...

Yes, and I sometimes deal with dead people in my line of work. It doesn't bother me. Also, when in EMT training there were a lot of gory images in the text and in films. Again, I'm able to be clinical about it. But there was nonetheless something startling about having that photo of a dead child in my possession. I always find such things a bit disturbing.
Western culture does not deal with death in a very positive way.

tsduff said...

When I worked in the ER, I sometimes saw people who died as we were working on them - but somehow when the dead are loved ones it is more difficult. I don't like to have a photograph of the sick or dying much, including my pets because I would rather remember them happy and alive.