• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Dying is a social as well as physiological phenomenon. Each society characterizes and, consequently, treats death and dying in its own individual ways—ways that differ markedly. These particular patterns of death and dying engender modal cultural responses, and such institutionalized behavior has familiar, economical, educational, religious, and political implications. The Handbook of Death and Dying takes stock of the vast literature in the field.

The Evolution of the Funeral Home and the Occupation of Funeral Director
The evolution of the funeral home and the occupation of funeral director

Run, run as fast as you can. I will meet you here.

—Inscription on the archway of a Sicilian cemetery

Death, Wakes, and Funerals

The inexorable passage of time permits no interruption, disallows any pause, and requires the unrelenting march to the grave. Because of its inevitability and its gravity, the end of life is one of the most essential existential facts of human existence. Our exit from life is such a crucial social consideration that everywhere death is surrounded by beliefs and ceremonials called rites of passage that signify the transformative immensity of the event.

In the United States, during the course of the last ...

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