I am at the moment dealing with the recent death of my mother and thinking a great deal about religion, mortality and philosophy. Jewish laws and rituals around death have a very specific character and content. "In preparation for the burial, the body is thoroughly cleaned and wrapped in a simple, plain linen shroud. The Sages decreed that both the dress of the body and the coffin should be simple, so that a poor person would not receive less honor in death than a rich person. The body is wrapped in a tallit with its tzitzit rendered invalid. The body is not embalmed, and no organs or fluids may be removed." (Avriel Bar-Levav)
I am not religious, but the rituals surrounding the death of a beloved mother have helped me cope with her death. I am also a skeptic and do not believe in the afterlife. This does not mean that I am against spiritual ways of thinking or intend any disrespect to people whose beliefs encourage them to think of death as one phase of human existence and not the material end of body and soul.
My mother was an extraordinary woman whose life was surrounded by much tragedy and much happiness. This is not the place to delve too deeply into that history, suffice to say that she lost a great deal due to the Holocaust and still managed to raise a family, support us in numerous ways and always express love and affection for everyone. She was a woman with a great sense of humour, the most wonderful luminescent face and a beautiful voice. I shall miss her very deeply.