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Some say that a draped and empty urn attests to the soul having fled the shrouded body. The urn, however, has long been used to hold the ashes or bones of the dead, so this interpretation sounds odd to me. I suggest instead that urns and shrouds testify to the fact of death itself; being two pieces of entombment equipment, they are ornaments to which we have given meaning after the fact.

Photo: Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, California
Copyright 2000 by Joel GAzis-SAx