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Death: Life’s Grand Finale or Not?

The most significant moments in one’s life are birth and death. However, in an attempt at humor by nature, no one gets to celebrate their birth or death. While life is anticipated and celebrated, few people welcome death; most dread it, and a lot live in constant fear of it. On the flip side, some observe the phenomenon, and a handful is fascinated by it, particularly about what happens after life, supposing it exists. While life and death are the two sides of the same coin, they couldn’t be more different. Life often brings smiles and happiness, whereas its antithesis brings gloom, sorrow, fear, anger, and grief.

The mystery of death is shrouded in its timing and suddenness, even in its certainty and inevitability. Life, just like every beginning, must have an end. The birth or evolution of the first man or infant, the first star, or the first civilization all have one thing in common: their lot or death. While the phenomenon is known to be inescapable, it is a topic often avoided or characterized by reluctance.

Death is a universal phenomenon. All cultures throughout history have had beliefs or myths about it. Mythic accounts about the origin of death can be traced as far back as the earliest hunter-gatherer cultures. Although a universal phenomenon, it is represented in different cultures and their myths in various forms. This includes its personifications: mythological creatures and beings associated with death.

This paper aims to discuss the uncomfortable but necessary and specific phenomenon: death. Are we born to die? Is death the end? Is it the beginning of a new existence? Is it final, with nothing after? These are some of the questions this piece hopes to address.

What is Death?

Death is a "universal, natural, persistent, inescapable, unavoidable, and an undeniable fact of life," according to Dancy and Davis (2006). This iterates the idea of death as being contained or inherent in life. Known as the greatest leveler, it makes no distinction between age, sex, race, religious affiliation, or social status.

Death has been personified across cultures as mythological creatures, with the Grim Reaper in European culture, Thanatos in Greek mythology, Yama in Hinduism, and Banshee in Irish mythology, among a few of death’s personifications.

While death is usually associated with feelings of grief, it is celebrated in some cultures, albeit significantly determined by its nature and circumstances. For instance, some cultures celebrate the demise of an older adult, seeing it as the end of a fulfilling life. Some even believe that the larger the celebration, the faster the journey to the afterlife and their acceptance into it. On the flip side, the death of a child, a teenager, or a young adult is a peaceful event, as it comes with more grief and is characterized by an unfulfilled life.

With death comes a vacuum and feelings of loss, including the grief often carried by loved ones left behind. But is that the case? Is there a lingering or persisting feeling of loss, even among the dead? The answer to this begs an even bigger question: "Is there a life or existence after death?"

Death as the End or Beginning

Many religions, cultures, and myths believe death to be a transition to another life. There are also beliefs about reincarnation, centered around birth, death, and rebirth. Yoruba culture, one of the largest in Nigeria, and Hinduism believe in the reincarnation of the dead into the living world.

There are also cultural beliefs about a continuous interaction between the living and the dead, which express that the dead exist on another plane where they can be interacted with. Conversely, death is also viewed by some cultures as the end, a permanent disengagement where nothing exists afterward. This belief is also held by atheists, who believe nothing exists after death.

Religion, defined as the opium of the masses by Karl Marx, preaches the idea of an afterlife or the transition into one. In this life after death, the virtuous get to enjoy paradise, away from the sorrows of the world, and vice versa. For instance, Christianity believes in eternal joy in heaven for believers and hell, a place of eternal anguish and suffering for sinners.

The religious and cultural accounts of death as a transition to an afterlife paint one part as paradise and the other as a grim and despairing place. The growth of the dead to either afterlife region depends on the conditions or circumstances defined within the cultures and religions.

The belief in reincarnation as an aftermath of death is also popular. According to some cultural ideas, an unfulfilled life will result in reincarnation. On the other hand, there are some beliefs about the circular pattern of life, which include birth, death, and rebirth.

Final Words

Death is the natural end to all living things, but life is not only governed by the laws of nature alone. There is more than just this physical world and more than just natural laws.

Just like with every metaphysical topic, we can only speculate about what happens after death. The answer to whether death is the end or the beginning of something will always elude us, or we will only know after death.

There are several cultural and religious beliefs about death and what happens after it, which we either choose or are born into. This is one of the few instances where people live based on their beliefs, with no right or wrong answer, just beliefs.

Some beliefs provide solace in an afterlife, where they live in bliss after death. There are also some beliefs about reincarnation or life in other planes after death. Lastly, death is also seen as life’s grand finale, with nothing after it.


Grasping the idea of death or what is or might be after it is nearly impossible. So, instead of worrying about death and the uncertainties after it, priority should be given to living a good and just life.

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