03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Chronicle Of A Death We Can't Accept

For the first time in history, the actual presence of the dead at their own funerals has become optional, even undesirable, lest the body break the illusion of a cloudless celebration, spoil the meditative mood and reveal the truths about grief, life and death that our thinned-out ceremonies cannot bear.

A corpse is a stark reminder that human beings are inescapably embodied creatures, and that a life is the sum of what has been performed and spoken by the body -- a mixture of promises made and broken, deeds done and undone, joys evoked and pain inflicted.

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