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The Tiger's Nest in Bhutan. Photo by Chelsea Ferrel.

An Ode to Life and Death

In the US, death is hidden since birth.
Locked away in the closet, never to be seen or talked about until it is required.
Viewed as the worst part of life, scariest, the most damaging, the end.
When life ends it is private, somber and brief.
Soon to be forgotten and locked away again in fear that the thought might consume us.

In Bhutan, Death is always present.
It is a part of life just as much as life itself.
It is viewed as a continuation of life.
An opportunity.
When death begins and life ends it is celebration.
The families and whole communities entwined in the beloved’s life more publicly and with the help of others.
Their’s is dancing, food, singing and other ceremonies.
It is a bright and colorful public celebration of the life lived, and what is to come.
Not how it is over but how it has begun.

The privilege of viewing a celebration of death here in the tucked away village of Domkhar
Men with fire going from house to house dancing and protecting each house and individual
After every house is released of the debts and the longings of the dead,
A bonfire set in the fields with the ashes of the loved one by the roaring river that carries away prayers
The sky looks utterly fiery yet deeply peaceful
While singing, dancing, music, yelling and crying exhilarates and scares me.
My heart beats to footsteps people take towards the holy and the sacred

This is an ode to the people, this place and the incredible ways we view life,
This is an ode to death and the myriad ways we can view it
And the myriad ways we can celebrate it.