Humans have one life. At the end of that life there comes a funeral. While over the course of history there are no doubt countless humans whose deaths were not marked by any formal recognition, funerals became the norm. How we conduct these affairs differs from culture to culture, but one thing seems to be fairly universal. We mark graves. We decorate them. We leave flowers or religious symbols or items that memorialize our deceased loved ones. Sometimes that materialization is extravagant. The Taj Mahal in India; the Pyramids in Egypt; Graceland in Nashville. On August 26, 1498, Michelangelo was commissioned to carve The Pieta for the mausoleum of French Cardinal Jean de Bilheres. Carved in Carrara marble, it was completed the next year. The depiction of Mary cradling Jesus after his crucifixion is said to represent the epitome of grief. Almost five and a quarter centuries later it rests in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The good French Cardinal's grave was moved when it became necessary to reconstruct the church in which he was buried. He stayed put, so to speak. The Pieta was relocated to the Vatican. Such is the power of the Pope. Very, very few will have the notoriety of such a grave marker or the splendor of the architectural magnificence of The Taj Mahal or The Pyramids or Graceland. We will rest-in-peace six feet under ground beneath simply carved marble noting our name and the dates of our birth and death. And guess what? Our sleep will be just as peaceful as those under much more elaborate shrines.
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