This video from Rob Harris at the New York Times depicts one widow and her family's struggle to perform the sacred funeral rites for her husband Clotaire Auguste. (Viewer discretion is advised: this video contains disturbing images).
While funeral rites differ across culture, it is crucial for people of all nations and creeds to remember how short life is. Ibn Mas'ud said, "The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, drew lines making a square and then drew a line in the middle which extended beyond it. He drew some small lines up to this middle line from the side within the square and said, 'This is man, and this is end of his lifespan which encircles him - or by which he is encircled - and this which goes beyond it is his hope and these small lines are things that happen. If this one misses him, that one gets him, and if that one misses him, this one gets him.'"
In other words, death can come for you at any minute. Ibn 'Umar used to say, "In the evening, do not anticipate the morning, and in the morning do not anticipate the evening. Take from your health for your illness and from your life for your death." [al-Bukhari].
And the Almighty says, "O you who believe! Do not let your wealth or children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. Whoever does that is lost. Give from what We have provided for you before death comes to one of you and he says, 'O Lord, if only you would give me a little more time so that I can give sadaqa and be one of the righteous.' Allah will not give anyone more time, once their time has come. Allah is aware of everything you do." (63:9-11)
The Almighty says, "Until, when death comes to one of them, he says, 'My Lord, send me back again. so that perhaps I may act rightly regarding the things I failed to do!' No indeed! It is just words he utters. Before them there is an interspace until the day they are raised up. Then when the Trumpet is blown, that Day there will be no family ties between them, they will not be able to question one another. Those whose scales are heavy, they are the successful. Those whose scales are light, they are the losers of their selves, remaining in Hell timelessly, forever. The Fire will sear their faces making them grimace horribly in it, their lips drawn back from their teeth. 'Were My Signs not recited to you and did you not deny them?'" to His words, "'How many years did you tarry on the earth?' They will say, 'We tarried for a day or part of a day. Ask those able to count!' He will say, 'You only tarried for a little while if you did but know! Did you suppose that We created you for amusement and that you would not return to Us?'" (W23:100-116; H23:99-115)
Astaghfirullah, may Allah SWT grant us forgiveness for our lapses and may he make us among those that think of nothing but death.