You can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats dead bodies. Some cultures revere them. One of my favourite films Departures is the story of a young man who returns to his small hometown after a failed career and takes a job as an assistant to a nōkanshi — a traditional Japanese ritual mortician. The respect shown to the departed by the nōkanshi as he prepares them for burial — washing, oiling, dressing, honouring — is truly beautiful.

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