No matter what our beliefs, there are many euphemisms for death. We may not mention the exact word, but we talk about crossing over, flying away, kicking the bucket, buying the farm, cashing in our chips, even going to Davy Jone's locker. Maybe those more indirect terms help us deal with this life's final reality, death.
No matter how advanced humans become, there will always be physical death. The old saying Bob Dylan helped popularize is basically true, "He who is not busy being born, is busy dying." The telomeres, or proteins on the ends of our chromosomes, allow for complete DNA duplication. If the telomeres are damaged or broken off, the duplication is imperfect, hence aging. Also we seem to have a built-in expiration date. Since genetic duplication only takes place a certain number of times in a living thing, replication does come to an end.
But it is thought that while genetics loads the gun, it is usually behavior that pulls the trigger. The most common causes of death in the U.S. can be triggered by certain behaviors. The most common cause of death is heart disease (28.5 percent). Cancers take 22.8 percent of us away (howstuffworks.com).
So death, even at very old age, is inevitable, and sometimes it seems like more people we know are dying than normal. With the elderly, the times of extreme weather conditions seems to bring on a larger number of deaths. Sometimes those who know their death is approaching, like the very elderly or those with terminal illnesses, tend to wait until after holidays or certain birthdays to die. They're ready to go.
In general, Wednesday is the most common day to pass away (answer.com). Four a.m. seems to be the most common time of day to die if the person is elderly. The most common time for all ages to die is 8 a.m. and a secondary peak, according to Chacha, is at 6 p.m. At any given time, in the U.S., 12 people are born per second and eight people pass away.
For a fun and unusual analysis of a guestimated time of you own death, visit the website: www.deathclock.com.
Humans aren't alone in processing their ideas of death. Elephants mourn their dead and there have been so-called "elephant graveyards" in natural elephant habitats. Dogs have been know to mourn their masters' deaths, some sitting by graves for extended periods of time. Certain animals seem to plan for the future, and there is much research being devoted to animal thought. That said, humans may be alone in their ability to conceive of an afterlife.
Early in human history people began marking graves and honoring the departed. Commonly humans were buried in caves to help protect the remains from predators and weathering. Some humans were mummified, through purposeful means, or accidentally through conditions of burial. Most commonly through these burial sites archeologists find protected items that were buried with the departed. Because of its durability, jewelry is one of the more enduring items found in old graves. Though it often has great value, jewelry is buried with the dead as a symbol of respect, honor or love.
Not all conceptions of an afterlife are the same. Islam, Judaism and Christianity all believe in a resurrection. Immortality of the soul, or spirit has Greek origins, according to James Santucci, of the University of Philosophical Research. Reincarnation, common in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism, developed about the fifth century, and is based on this philosophy of immortality of the soul or spirit (Santucci, Wikipedia).
In primitive societies, people deal with death on a personal level. The common person may prepare the body of a loved one and bury it according to cultural and personal beliefs. As societies begin to divide labor, dealing with the dead becomes something an undertaker assumes. As medical advances progress in a society, death may be removed from the general population to hospitals, nursing homes and funeral homes. In that case, unless someone near and dear to a person dies, they may not feel personally involved in a passing away of a given life.