Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
(James Joyce, The Dead)

Can you understand people’s fascination with death? We all know that it’s going to happen, and don’t know what happens after it. Some cultures take it as a cue to mourn, or celebrate.

The requests people make when they’re dying, though, can be so silly. Bury me here, wearing this dress/suit, and put this in my coffin … spread some of my ashes overlooking my favourite view, and some on the street I grew up in, and the rest on the beach … blah blah blah … do this, do that. You’re dead. Who cares what happens here afterward. I’m not going on a road trip with an urn. If there is an afterlife with people looking down on the living or any of that stuff, the ones who burdened their families with these requests are probably thinking it was pretty stupid of them: it’s all material world stuff that you probably won’t care about anymore.

But you could look at it this way: those final requests involve the living in a structured process of mourning and closure, a process of materially showing final respect for the deceased’s wishes. It lets the living know that they’ve personally carried out a loved one’s last desires, even at some cost to themselves. True love is about self-sacrifice for another, not doing what is reasonable or comfortable for you.

And whilst the body will decay, and the soul might travel to some next life, in a practical emotional sense, something of the deceased is very much still here for those who interacted with and loved him or her. All those connections aren’t instantly sundered and erased as if the dead had never lived. To pretend that a person’s wishes matter in life but not in death is to deny that fact.

I won’t be leaving any chores for those left behind. However, I can see why these rituals exist and have for thousands of years. It is because humans require some sense of closure about everything, even those things that they aren’t there to experience personally. And those around them will do these things because they feel like when they are in that situation, they will want someone to do it for them. If it means a way to prove one last time that they are loved, or whatever personal philosophy that they hold to that is being fulfilled, then so be it. It isn’t anything to be hostile about. Death is the fulfilment of life. No more, no less.

Brown bread is brown bread.