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Death becomes us

The impulse to invest significance in the bodies of the dead has usually been a religious one. Yet even my atheist father cared about the treatment of his remains, says Sarah Murray

By Sarah Murray   October 2011

Clay figures mark the Day of the Dead in Mexico: during the annual holiday, people pray for and honour their deceased relatives and friends

“Listen, darling,” my mother told me in her no-nonsense voice. “I know how to do this—I’ve done it with soap powder.” Using a pair of kitchen scissors, she was snipping away at a thick plastic bag to allow its contents, tightly packed inside a steel pot, to flow out more freely. I’d suggested that if we made too large an opening in the bag, its contents would spill out in a rush. My mother, however, was…

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