I want to tell you an old Brothers Grimm tale called The Singing Bone. In this story, a jealous man kills his younger brother and hides his body below a bridge. Some years later, a shepherd sees a white bone poking up from the sand and takes it to make into a flute.
To his astonishment, when he blows into the flute, it sings a song about a murder. The shepherd takes the bone and plays it for the king, who immediately recognizes the story. He finds and punishes the murderer.
Then he orders the younger brother’s bones dug up and brought back to be buried in a beautiful place. In this way, order is restored in the kingdom.
How we bury our dead is a measure of our humanity. Everywhere are rituals and memorials of stone, shell, wood and words. When we honour the dead, we knit ourselves into our past and our future.
I can only know my dead from their stories. Without them, life’s fullness is impossible. In some languages the very word for “story” means “the ancestors.” When we listen, we know.