National Geographic : 2016 Apr
death in toraja 67 against an aquamarine sky, it’s easy to believe that God chose this to be his Eden. Kambuno continues: God gave the gifts of bamboo and bananas from the Earth and betel and lime from the heavens. “He commanded us to use these things that give people pleasure to ease our grief, to make ourselves feel happy if we are sad when someone dies.” I realize I’m asking the wrong question. Torajans, it appears, are probably more deeply connected than we are to the way people every- where feel death: the desire to stay connected to loved ones in both body and spirit; to believe that people don’t ever really die permanently; and to have, and to become, an ancestor. So the question isn’t why do Torajans do what they do,butwhydowedowhatwedo?Howdidwe distance ourselves so much from death, which is, after all, just a part of life? How did we lose the sense of being connected to each other, to our place in society, in the universe? Kambuno gestures at his family crypt, which he says holds more than ten relatives. “My fa- ther is in here,” he says. “But I am here, so he is not really dead. My mother is in here, but I have daughters, so she is not really dead. My daugh- ters have been exchanged for my mother. I have been exchanged for my father.” j Tini Patiung breaks down moments before a group of men carry her mother to her grave. Ester Patiung died ten months earlier, at age 62; her body was kept in the family home as decisions were made about her funeral ceremony.