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If you have around 13 minutes, please check out this fascinating TED talk by anthropologist Kelli Swazey.

She speaks of the Toraja, a group in Indonesia whose funeral celebrations often become raucous affairs that can last days or even weeks. About five minutes into this video, she explains how some families even keep the corpse in the home, feeding it ceremonial food and keeping it very much part of the family life. She shows some fascinating pictures.


Courtesy of the Jakarta Post. According to the newspaper, the man on the left had been dead 80 years.

More information on the above photo can be found here.

This ritual serves a stark contrast to our way of funerals in the West, where we are quick to get rid of the body, quick to get it out of sight. Even if burial does not occur right away, the body is housed at the funeral home where no one sees it save for the mortician. Swazey talks of the social implications that can result. Ironically, as quickly as we want the body out of sight, we are taking more and more extreme measures to keep people alive.

What can we learn from the Toraja? What is your biggest complaint with how we deal with death and dying in the West?