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Death Becomes Us

Throughout history, civilizations have developed ways to deal with and honor the dead. From embalming to cremation, funeral services to burial ceremonies, the rituals of death tell us a lot about the living. What do our customs say about our society? And how do our practices shape the way we view our final fate?
By Nikki Tundel
May 2007

Feature Stories

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Document How embalming changed death
Embalming enables the deceased to look as good in death as they did in life. And that's completely altered the scope of the funeral industry.

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Document The art of death
Looking good when you're dead isn't easy. Luckily there are people out there who can help.

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Document Death: have it your way
Some say we're all equal in death. Cleary, those people don't realize how personalized the funeral industry has become.

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Document Graveyard shifts
They've been called cities of the silent. But cemeteries actually tell us a lot about society.

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Document Sleep with the fishes - and other options for your loved ones
Memorial reefs. Fireworks shows. Diamond rings. These days, there are some pretty interesting places to rest in peace.

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Document Death gets personal
They're kind of like a book group. But instead of discussing the latest best sellers, these Twin Cities women talk about living wills and cremation and the music selections they'd like at their funerals.


View slideshowHistorically, gifts were placed on graves to pacify the spirit of the deceased. These days, many continue to leave items for the dead. Their offerings range from the quirky to the poignant.

Flash Video View slideshow with audio (launches new window)


Have you planned your own funeral? Share your own perspective on death, discuss death rituals, or publish a photo of a grave marker.

Share your opinions Join the online discussion


View slideshow The rituals of death vary greatly from one religion to another, one culture to the next.

Here is a small sampling of the beliefs that help guide the way people deal with the deceased.

Extra feature Read more


Reporter: Nikki Tundel
Editors: Melanie Sommer, Stephanie Curtis, Mike Edgerly, and Bob Collins
Web producer: Michael Wells
Web design: Marcus Ekblom


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