In Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie, Wade Davis (he of The Serpent and the Rainbow fame) describes the tenuous ways in which death has been defined, historically and even into the present day. It’s a frightening account, filled with examples gleaned from the modern media, of folks who have been declared dead and consigned to the morgue or funeral home, only to suddenly recover and be not-so-dead anymore.
Take this example in China. A guy kidnaps a couple folks and is holding them hostage on a window ledge. Some enterprising cop hits him with two shots, point-blank, to the head, knocking him off the ledge and to the pavement 5 stories below. I mean, that’s some serious dead-making action! And yet…
The paper said his body was put in a coffin and taken to a funeral home, where it was to be refrigerated before being cremated.
But funeral home workers heard a groan on opening the coffin and were shocked to find the man still alive. They rushed him to hospital.
Makes you want to write a “living will” for after you die, doesn’t it? Something like “In the event of my death, give it a few weeks before you bury me alive, ok?”